This week after Bible study we started sharing about our families and how we met our husbands and things like that. It was fun to hear a bit about other people’s stories. Sometimes I felt like exclaiming, “Oh, me too! That happened to me!” But I didn’t. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
We get excited when we have experienced what someone else has experienced. In part I think it’s because it validates our own experiences. But I sense that it’s more than that. I know that I get excited about a shared experience because it’s a way of connecting with the other person. It says I understand what that was like, I understand you, and hopefully then, you understand me too. Because we all have this fundamental desire to be known.
And this reminds me that birds of a feather really do flock together. It’s much rarer that opposites attract. Even with friends who seem like opposites you’ll probably find that there’s a number of major similarities between them that attracted them to each other in the first place.
I wanted to exclaim that I shared that experience. But I didn’t say anything. Because I’ve been trying to listen. That might sound odd from someone who you know stands pretty often on the listener side of the line in group situations. What I mean is that I’ve been trying to listen to the other person without speaking to make the conversation about me.
I went looking for a picture for this post and found these two guinea pigs who illustrate my point quite nicely. While they are sharing the leaf, it certainly looks like one is trying to take it away from the other.
Instead of pointing out a shared experience and bringing attention in the conversation to me, I want to stay focused on the other person as I listen to them speak. I want to care by giving them my attention and not thinking about myself.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” - C. S. Lewis
Of course there are times when it’s great to share that you understand someone’s experience, especially if they ask! Often it can be greatly comforting in a hard situation to know that you’re not alone or someone else has been through it before. But perhaps especially in these times I think we need to be careful about showing the other person that we are listening to them, to their particular situation and feelings. We can’t assume that they feel the same way as we did just because we’ve experienced the same situation.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe exclaiming “me too!” is caring and I’m just being overly sensitive thinking that I’m being attention-seeking when I say that. I don’t think that I have all the answers and I’d love to hear from you if you have some further thoughts. What do you think?