To have a true friend is a great treasure. A person who can hear the cry of your soul and not judge you, fix you or leave you. They can see you, love you, and give you grace. They are there to just…be. That is the gift, to be present. Only you can give the gift of yourself to another. Only you can give a piece of your worn heart to another, and care for theirs. Not in a quid-pro-quo, but an honest attempt to live to the fullest.
“You can be glued to a screen or glued to your schedule or glued to your stuff—and maybe that’s just a bit of lost living. You can be a slave to getting ahead, a slave to the clock, a slave to convenience, a slave to some ill-advised American dream—and maybe that’s a lot of lost living. Maybe even in a bit of brokenness, grace moves in you to get up and give to people you love and people that you’re learning to love, to go to the park and laugh with your kids or any kids, to give an elderly woman a hand and a listening ear and the gift of presence—that’s large living.” – Ann Voskamp
Being present requires discipline and intent. Standing still in a constant stream of information and to-dos takes strength and discipline. To go with the flow is to have all “the busy” decide where your time, thoughts, emotions and energy will go. Throw down your busyness badge of honor and give yourself on purpose. Decide to completely give your time, heart, and attention to another. In doing so, you communicate to them, “You are important and worth my attention.” What a rare gift to give someone your undivided attention.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey
The average person believes they are exceptional communicators, but in the fact the average person only uses 25% listening efficiency. Most people (myself included) listen to respond, rather than understand. When you listen to understand, you turn off the endless script in your head and try to comprehend the thoughts of the soul before you. An effective and practical practice is to respond with, “I think what I hear you saying is…” This kind of back and forth can lead to both parties actually understanding what is being said, and that understanding bonds them together.
Truly understanding another person’s words, thoughts and heart can (and should) induce empathy. Despite different logic, beliefs and worldviews, you can hear something familiar in their words; something you understand. At the core of every person is a desire to be seen, understood and accepted. When you really listen to another, you can hear that steady drumbeat from their heart. “Know me, accept me, make me feel special.”
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
It’s arguably easier to hear another’s heart then share your own. It requires vulnerability, which feels unnatural and intimidating. To truly share your heart is to be plain and bare, without explanations or embellishments. It’s not the entertaining glamour the world has become accustomed to. There is definitely discernment to be exercised when sharing such a raw piece of yourself. But the risk is almost always worth it.
Willingness to be vulnerable is far from being a strength of mine. It’s terrifying; the idea of being rejected, mis-understood or laughed at. Nothing I write to you can ever come from a place of superiority or chastising. I intend to write from a place of camaraderie and desire to grow. I’m grateful the Lord has been growing me in this area, but the fire that molds the clay is never fun.
Perhaps together, we can grow. Grow to intentionally give our focus, time and maybe even a bit of ourselves. This is what it is to the give the gift of presence.