I am a terrible listener. Seriously. Whenever someone comes to me with a problem, my first reactions is to fix it with as many different nuggets of “wisdom” as I can possibly throw at them. It’s like an artillery barrage of Christian advice.
I think there’s a part of me that secretly thinks I’ll look super holy if I can offer just the right input. It can even turn into a competition–I’m trying to out-advise all other Christians, including the person I’m advising. Then they’ll think I’m pretty awesome, and hopefully tell others.
But sometimes, people just need you to listen. They don’t want you to argue, disagree, or even be helpful. They just need an ear.
Well with that in mind, I want to offer you a blog post from one of my all-time favorite blogs. It’s called Stuff Christians Like, and the title of the post is “The Judgment Olympics.” It’s hilarious, but also really true, so I hope you are as challenged by it as I am. Christian advice can often get really messed up….
I don’t get a lot of hate mail. In more than 300 posts, I have received only a handful of comments from people that sincerely don’t like me. But every now and then I get someone that wants to judge the blog.
I am cool with that. I think we need to discern and discuss and analyze. That’s good and I am going to make mistakes that need to be fixed. The challenge is that sometimes it’s so easy for discernment to mutate into judgement. And also, it’s really hard to know when someone has done a quality job of judging you.
That’s why I decided to hold the first annual Stuff Christians Like Judgment Olympics. Not only is it topical in this Olympic year but I think it will give you something great to say back to someone that says something judgmental to you. Imagine yelling “Gold Medal!” when someone in your small group says something unkind to you. Dare to dream Jon, dare to dream.
Here are the events:
1. The “I used to”
You’ve just confessed something that is going on in your life and the person across from you pauses and then says, “I used to do that a lot too before I really connected with God.” Ohhh, I used to is a powerful, powerful phrase. What this does is set up that the person you’re talking with has moved beyond what you are struggling with. When they were a sweaty Philistine they used to do what you are doing, but now that life is angelic that just don’t do that anymore.
2. The “I’m with God.”
The best thing to do when you really want to judge someone is draw up sides. Make sure you take the side of God first which automatically puts the other person on the side of satan. Sound extreme and like something that doesn’t happen? It does. Here’s what it looks like: “I understand what you are saying, I guess I’m just going to go with God on this one.” Or, “I’m not telling you my opinion, I’m just telling you what the Bible and God say.” The implication is that you’re not disagreeing with the other person, you’re disagreeing with the Alpha and Omega. Which does not feel awesome.
3. The “half and half”
This is probably my favorite one. In this form, you give a fake compliment, followed up by what you really feel. For example, if you don’t like a certain minister you might say, “He’s got a great ministry, unless you feel that learning about the Bible is important.” or “That’s a great song, if you don’t mind devil music.” This the equivalent of waving your hand around to make someone look at it while your foot kicks them in the groin.
4. The “Judgement Squared”
This one is kind of funny. Sometimes people will judge me for being too judgmental. That’s like swimming in the ocean next to me and telling me that I’m wet. Hey, wait a second, you’re wet too, I want to say. If you ever angrily, aggressively say the sentence, “who gives you the right to judge?” then you’ve just won yourself a medal.
5. The “for me.”
This is similar to number 2, but does not have to involve throwing the God card directly. Let’s say I write a post about some kind of worship music that I think is overplayed in church. Someone reads that, and then says, “I guess for me, worship is about communing with God and not my own narcissistic sense of enjoyment.” That sounds a little extreme, but I once got in an argument with someone that read my completely silly post about holding hands and then accused me of probably not liking to touch the homeless. We ended up working it out, but the initial implication was, “You don’t like interlinking fingers with people at church? For me, touch is about loving others like Jesus. Why do you hate the homeless?”
To read the whole of this post, click here.
Now here’s your homework: The next time someone comes to you for advice, I challenge you to spend as little time talking as possible. Even if there’s an awkward silence and you feel like you HAVE to fill the space, don’t. I guarantee the person you’re conversing with will keep talking–they just need that silence to process their own thoughts. I can’t tell you how many people have told me what great advice I gave them, when they actually came to the conclusion on their own…I just happened to be sitting next to them.
So try it. Not only will you be a much better listener, but you significantly decrease your chances of winning a medal in the Judgment Olympics.