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by Matt Kauffman on May 04, 2021
“Tell me about you—what’s your story?”
Such was the question that I had been longing to hear for most of my young adult life. I grew up in an environment that didn’t really want to hear what I had to say. Maybe you can identify with me, you felt lost in the shuffle, never “big” enough, “fast” enough, or “smart” enough. As a result, I became just another person in a sea of people.
What I really wanted was to be heard. To be someone. To feel like I was somebody. We all have that longing, that desire to have someone listen to the stories we tell.
God gave each of us, including myself a unique gift, and that is to listen. It seems that in the age of social media most people have a voice, but no one seems to take the time to listen.
I remember going through a book study 22 years ago. The subject matter was on relationships and conversations. One of the ideas that the book imprinted into my mind was “Seek First to Understand, then be Understood.” That was one of the first times I sat down and thought about being intentional in my relationships. Was I hearing the stories people were sharing with me—really listening, and hearing the heart of the conversations that I was a part of?
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Dr. Stephen R. Covey
We are all looking for someone to listen to us: maybe it’s during a crucial conversation between two people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong; or maybe it’s during an innocuous chat about the latest sports headline. We all need someone to care about the things we care about, and to hear our stories.
I’m reminded of the story in the Gospel of John. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees had caught a woman in adultery and dragged her to Jesus. Jesus listened to the accusations and the taunts. This was a crucial conversation; tensions were high, there was a lot at stake, this woman’s literal life was on the line. But Jesus in all grace and understanding, took the time to listen and with profound wisdom proclaimed, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Quietly every one of her accusers walked away until she was alone, standing only with Jesus. I imagine her heart was pounding and waiting with trepidation for Jesus’ own response to her situation. What she received from Jesus, in contrast to the Pharisees, was grace and truth. By listening and understanding—and by having empathy—her life had been saved. This woman would never be the same, the grace of God rescued her not only physically but eternally as well.
"So tell me about you! What’s your story?” That question was the key to helping me begin my real journey to freedom out of shame and fear. For too long I was simply trying to correct my actions, my behaviors, but never addressing my core beliefs, which was the fuel driving my negative behaviors
James 1:19-20, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak…”
When someone intentionally asked me, “what’s your story?”—and then really listened—I felt that help was on the way. Together we began to identify the soul level truths of what I subconsciously believed about myself. We replaced the lies of “I’m not good enough” with the truth of God’s word.
We are saved by grace, God’s unmerited favor. We carry with that a power to listen, develop empathy, and be that conduit through which God can save a life, both physically and eternally.
Tags: story, grace, listening, gift, empathy, ears, slow to speak, crucial conversations, james 1:19-20, quick to listen
Matt serves as the Small Groups Pastor and also leads Petra Men. He enjoys teaching and serving as a mentor in various men’s groups.
Matt met his wife Andrea while serving with Youth With A Mission in Los Angeles, CA. Over the years they had the privilege of leading students on overseas trips to share the gospel of Christ. They lived in Los Angeles for a time, as well as in Colorado Springs, before settling in New Holland. They began attending Petra not long after moving here in 2009 and got involved as Small Group leaders. When not working, Matt enjoys relaxing with his wife and their three children, Anna, Libby, and Will. Matt also enjoys golfing, hiking, and traveling to new destinations.
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