Thomas Hart’s The Art of Christian Listening (Paulist Press, 1980) has consistently provided me fruitful perspectives for the work of walking alongside others on their spiritual journey. Hart’s thoughts point to fundamental realities of helping another person. As I reread the book I found myself translating some of his thoughts into self-examining questions. As you think and pray about your desire to walk well with others as a mentor or friend or facilitator this year, allow these questions to orient and ready your heart:
1. Am I willing to listen? Listening is fundamental to building trust in the relationship. By listening attentively to one another we remind each other that our lives profoundly matter.
2. Am I willing to simply be a companion? I need to leave behind any ambitions to be savior or problem solver or fix-it person in another’s life. The gift we can promise to another is our presence and genuine interest along the way.
3. Am I willing to love? It is un-love that makes people unwell, and it is love, and love alone, that makes people well (Karl Menninger). To choose to walk alongside another on their spiritual journey is to choose to love them.
4. Am I willing to be myself? Pretending to be someone I am not erodes trust in a relationship or small group. It is also a recipe for burnout; wearing a mask is absolutely exhausting. Allow the Spirit to gently free you up to be more comfortable in our own skin as you walk with others (Rom. 12:3).
Where do these questions stir your heart and mind? Convert your thoughts and emotions into a written prayer…