A couple weeks ago, I was at the climbing wall with my friend Hannah.
The guy on staff who was belaying us (holding our ropes) wasn’t being very attentive. I was annoyed.
He (Scott) had been going on and on about women’s rights or something with his co-worker. It was hard to get his attention. He was in his own world, passionately espousing his views.
I was getting grumpy. I felt ignored and inconvenienced. Hannah, however, was being her typical friendly self. While I climbed and Hannah stayed below, she engaged this guy in conversation. When I came down they continued talking. He spouted off about something again. Hannah nodded encouragingly.
“What do you want to do with your degree?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I thought about going into counseling,” he said.
“You should! You should totally do that! That’s so great!” Hannah answered.
What? Why is she encouraging this guy? I’m not so sure counseling is a great idea for him.
I looked at Scott. He smiled and his didactic monologue abated. He became almost bashful.
Hannah continued to tell him he was wonderful and could do anything he wanted.
Let me be clear—she wasn’t flirting. Scott was married and Hannah had zero interest in him. In fact, she asked him a lot about his wife and her aspirations, too.
I finally joined the conversation. Scott started talking about controversial topics again and I had a hard time not getting heated. Hannah listened patiently and while she disagreed with some of his statements, never got angry or said anything harsh.
About 45 minutes later, when we finally parted ways, Scott thanked us.
“I have pretty strong opinions about things,” he said. “Most people just toss me aside and can’t handle it. Thanks for being gentle with my heart.”
I was stunned, honestly. First, I was surprised to be included in his “thanks.” I hadn’t been very warm towards him. But also, I hadn’t realized that the conversation had been about his heart, not his political or religious views.
Hannah had seen his heart from the beginning, and therefore she spoke to it. I think it’s safe to say she even helped heal it a bit.
I had only seen a person who existed to serve me and meet my needs. A person who was there to fulfill my expectations and help my day go smoothly.
Maybe Scott shouldn’t go into counseling. Or maybe he should. I have no idea. But people are not a sum of what they do, or even what they say. People are souls with hearts. If their hearts are broken, their actions and words will likely be messed up, too. But if their hearts are whole, or at least on the path to healing, they will make the world a lot brighter, and we’ll probably want to sit and listen to them and walk with them as they live in the world.
We tend to treat people according to how they serve us and make us feel. The problem is, that means we tend to trample on broken hearts instead of helping them heal. We feel justified in telling the waitress she’s doing a horrible job if our food isn’t coming fast enough, or that the cashier is incompetent because he doesn’t understand how to scan our coupons.
Maybe they are doing a terrible job, but maybe you’re not helping. We need to see hearts and speak to them. We all know the language. We just have to get over ourselves long enough to speak it.