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Look Beyond the Words to the Feelings – Rick Warren

“Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”

1 Peter 3:8 (NLT)

What people say in a conversation is not nearly as important as what they are feeling. Many times, someone is saying one thing and feeling another.
If you’re going to be a great listener, then you need to look past people’s words, even when what they’re saying is offensive. Hurt people hurt people, and words are an effective weapon. When people lash out or get defensive, it’s often because they’re afraid, insecure, or frustrated.

And you know what? Once you recognize people may be feeling those things, it’s much easier to focus on listening to what they’re really trying to say. It’s much harder to be sympathetic when you think people are saying something unkind because they’re just spiteful or mean.

Words don’t always give you the whole picture. You sometimes have to look for the open nerve. You have to look at what someone has experienced. You have to ask why this issue may be a big deal to the person. You listen for the pain, understanding that sometimes the pain doesn’t have anything to do with you. Some pain is so deep it clouds every interaction someone has. The words may just be a mask for pain.

Learning to listen in love means looking past the things people are saying to what they might be feeling.

“Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude” (1 Peter 3:8 NLT).

When you’re humble, you’re open to new ideas. When you’re loving and sympathetic, you don’t bite back. If people get angry with you, you know to look past their anger and ask, “What are they afraid of? What are they anxious or fearful about? What has hurt them?”

You won’t always know people well enough to figure out exactly what’s pressing on their nerves. You may not be able to figure out what’s going on with their emotions. When that happens, you just have to give them the benefit of the doubt. You have to choose humility and kindness over getting the last word. You have to give people grace instead of getting even or making your point.

Even when faced with harsh words, a great listener always chooses love.

Talk It Over

What’s the difference between sympathy and empathy? Is it more difficult to feel sympathy or empathy for someone?
In order to be able to look past someone’s words to their feelings, what characteristics of a great listener will you have to cultivate in your life?
What does it mean to give someone the benefit of the doubt?

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