We’re so glad when a man or woman walks into one of Regeneration’s offices and opens up about something they’ve never told anyone. Ever.
We’re glad because it’s not good for a person to be alone with a secret burden. We’re all made for the light, and that’s where healing and growth take place.
If you want to be a person people feel safe enough to open up with, here’s something simple you can begin doing:
When a friend, co-worker, neighbor, or loved one shares something personal with you, particularly something painful or shameful, look them in the eye and say, “Thank you for telling me.”
It might sound overly simplistic, but I guarantee you it will do the other person good to hear some sort of thank you.
“Thank you for trusting me with that.”
“Thanks for letting me into what’s going on for you.”
“I’m honored you’d tell me.”
Here’s why this is so helpful:
- It shows them you know they just took a risk. A lot of people remain silent because they’ve imagined (or previously experienced) others responding with disgust or rejection. It’s a scary thing to open up when you feel ashamed about something you’ve done or that’s been done to you.
- It affirms you’re willing to listen. Often a part of why people keep quiet about struggles is because they don’t want to be a burden to others. “Thank you” let’s them know they’re not a burden. And even if what they share is a burden, it communicates they’re worth it to you.
- It treats them with honor. People keep silent out of fear that if others know, they’ll always be looked down upon. “Thank you” acknowledges you respect them even knowing what you now know.
- It reveals you know what they’ve told you is important. People keep silent because they’re afraid they’ll be given trite answers or inadequate advice. Even if you don’t know how to help, “thank you” affirms you don’t think lightly of what they’ve shared. Sometimes this followed by, “How can I help?” and a listening ear can be more helpful than you might imagine.
Of course there’s much you can do after this initial response, but this is a great place to begin. Try it next time someone shares something personal, even if what they share seems minor to you.
You might find this changes your relationships with people in your church, your small group, your accountability group, even your spouse or kids.
Someone might even thank you for it.