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Yesterday at play practice a mama (I’ll call her Karen) said one beautiful word to me. The word was a one-word question: “Really?”

During our two weeks of rehearsals, it is common for conversations to include talk of tired families. A repeated question I hear is, “Are you going to be able to slow down next week?” Those of us who have been involved for years have accepted the reality that we are going to be exhausted, but that the outcome, and, indeed, the entire experience, is worth it.

As Karen and I shared our brief conversation yesterday, I mentioned a responsibility I have this weekend, in addition to the play. With a look of surprise and empathy, she said, “Really?” as if she could hardly imagine that scenario. Her look said, “You have to be kidding! You are involved in that this weekend!”

We had a great dress rehearsal. I teared up at a tender scene. I spent time with some of my favorite people on the planet. It was a sweet morning, but one of the sweetest moments was when that kind mama said, “Really.”

Over the years, I have on occasion heard unkind responses to simple statements like the one I said on Friday, responses like these:

  • You think that’s something, you should hear what I have to do!
  • Well, that’s what you get for taking on too much!
  • Well, you enjoy that kind of thing.
  • Silence.

None of those feel very good. The “Really?” I heard yesterday morning was much nicer. It said:

  • I feel for you.
  • Wow, that sounds heavy.
  • You are justified if you feel overwhelmed.

As we go through our days, let’s try to find ways to connect with other people the way Karen connected with me on Friday. Whether we are with our families or our church or simply shopping at the grocery store, we meet many people who could use a “Really?”

I believe that all of us — children and adults — desperately want to be understood. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to live in the world as one of us. What a powerful way to show us that He understands. Feeling with others is one of God’s instructions to us. He told husbands to live with their wives in an “understanding way” (I Peter 3:7).

I think it is easy to invalidate the feelings of others, perhaps most especially the feelings of children, but I don’t think God is pleased with that. I believe that He wants us to try to understand. Understanding and empathy are powerful ways to love our neighbors as ourselves and powerful ways to consider others as more important than ourselves. I love how God makes it practical in Romans:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15


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One comment

  1. I just voiced this same thought to my husband last night—that one of the greatest gifts in all of humanity is understanding. Being understood is so powerful and comforting. Thank you for this, and for all of your blog posts. They are a blessing to me!

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