I thought I might try a small social experiment last week. I specifically asked one hundred people the same question; “if you are being completely honest, how are you doing?” Here are the results of this little experiment:
- The demographics included 31 White men, 22 White women, 11 Black men, 10 Black women, 8 Latino men, 10 Latino women, and 8 High Schoolers.
- Three broad categories came from this mix of people I chatted briefly with. 1) I’m tired. 2) I feel like everything in my life is a mess. 3) I feel stuck and feel anxious, all the time.
I realize that this wasn’t a scientific study, nor did it meet the requirements of a real data-gathering poll. It did give me a snapshot of what America feels like right now. America feels exhausted, frustrated and anxious. It’s epidemic in proportion. Nobody is immune to it. If you are wealthy, you are still struggling. If you are poor, you are really struggling. If you are in the messy middle, you are anxious and tired of living in the ambiguity of this somewhat post-COVID world. Friends, you are not alone!
Here are three things I’ve learned from my conversations with these gracious people.
- Everybody needs someone to listen to them. It’s not always easy to stop and listen. Sometimes it’s almost impossible. But we all need to be heard. Maybe you think you aren’t that person right now. Well, friend, your time is coming. I can guarantee you that every single human needs to know that they are heard. It is hard-wired in our brains that we need to be heard. When others stop to hear us, we are affirmed, and we are valued. When we are valued, we feel loved. And when we feel loved, we are better humans. Somewhere in our treadmill lifestyles, we must stop to hear others. We especially need to learn to listen to those we love most! Author and leadership expert once said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”
- Everybody needs a safe place to confide in. More than ever before, we need safe relationships. I would define safe relationships as relationships that are grounded in authenticity, truth, and confidence. That’s a mouthful. I cannot fill up one hand of my fingers with the number of those relationships in my life, and I have a great group of friends and family. Imagine what the world would be like without them? When you find that kind of friend, treasure them. I’ve learned this about relationships, give more to the relationship than you take away, and hold them as dear as they are. C.S. Lewis once said that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
- Everybody needs to be encouraged. This world seems to point out what is wrong with us continually. Once that is accomplished, that same world desires and drives us to become consumers of something we can purchase to “fix” our broken lives. Here’s a thought…what if that is what is broken in our weird world, not us? I’m not suggesting that we create some tree-hugging commune filled with Pollyanna-like false encouragement. I am suggesting that the world we strive to succeed in could use many more encouragers than criticism. I’ll bet you qualify for a little encouragement as well. Author Stephen Covey once said, “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be, and he will become as he can and should be.”
I hope that leaves you with the contemplation of these three questions:
- Who should I listen to today? Someone in your daily path needs someone to listen to them. Who might that be?
- Who is the person that is my safe place? And, Who am I a safe place for? It would help if you had both.
- Who can I encourage today? It might be a simple as attempting to be kind to people today. Kindness is scarce these days.
May the Lord go before you this day and make your crooked path straight. May He go within you and provide you with peace, joy, fulfillment, and contentment. And may you find hope in those that offer you a listening ear, a safe relationship, and a word of encouragement.