I attended my first teen support group about 30 years ago. I remember that night like it was yesterday. My first encounter was with a 15 year old that asked, “What the ******** are you doing here?” To which I honestly had no good response. To be honest, as a recent college graduate I believed that I had answers to the problems that many teens were experiencing at the time. I was there to share wisdom and provide a pathway to better living for those that were lucky enough to listen to my counsel. (I now realize how misguided I was)
This is where MY education began!
For the next 6 months I listened to young people talk about family breakdown, drug abuse, suicide, school failure, rejection, depression, hopelessness, and deep discouragement to name just a few. I realized that my answers were weak and unwanted, not because they were without merit, but because my presence reeked of superiority and judgement. I certainly did not intend this, but in retrospect, I understand.
You see my first encounter was a test. The test was, are you here to PROVIDE an ANSWER or are you here to BECOME PART OF THE ANSWER? Becoming part of the answer meant LISTENING INTENSELY before offering a solution. It meant truly seeking to understand before being understood. It meant EARNING through commitment and consistency the influence to MATTER over the long haul . After thousands and thousands of hours engaging in deep, honest, courageous, and vulnerable conversations, now 30 years later, I realize that the aroma that I brought to that first meeting had a distinct smell.
That smell was the aroma of LET DOWN.
Why? Because, providing answers and solutions to complex challenges without immersing myself in learning the learner has the smell of superiority and smugness.
This is often the aroma we bring when we want to solve heart-felt hurt, fear and desperation with simple cliches.
The truth is this AROMA is ALL OVER THE PLACE.
My presence and mindset that first meeting would have lead to nothing but more hurt, disappointment and LET DOWN to those I was with. The memory of my first years and what I have learned is one of the greatest gifts I have received in my life professionally and personally.
Here are three distinct POWERFUL PRINCIPLES that I have learned that I believe can guide you to better relationships, team work, personal success, and fulfillment.
People are wired to want and thrive from knowing that they are not ALONE. The disappointments, fears, failures, hurts, and unrealized hopes are best endured and healed through the unconditional presence of a loving person that simply seeks to walk in these moments WITH PEOPLE. Providing answers pales in comparison to being fully present. It took a group of teenagers to teach me the power of this principle. Many feel isolated, alone, and inferior without the relational experience of knowing they are not alone.
Practical help is the by product of deep listening and empathy. When we truly seek to understand the dreams, disappointments, and struggles the practical solutions become more clear. We often under estimate the power of UNDERSTANDING where one is coming from. This requires patience, curiosity, courage, and consistency. When this happens people grow wings of freedom and belief. When we take the time to LEARN THE LEARNER we become a powerful force for COURAGEOUS EXPRESSION and FREEDOM.
The aroma of our heart surpasses the wisdom of our words. Simply stated, “People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.” This is a mantra for living, working and competing. I learned that everyday I am being vetted according to this principle and so are you.
When we are willing to BECOME part of the solution for others and serve them in this capacity we become forces of positive influence.
I want to humbly challenge us to change the aroma of our hearts by courageously investing in those around us. Lets see ourselves, not so much our solutions and wisdom, as part of the formula that unleashes FULL and FREE expression of those around us. Think of the untapped potential that could be realized if everyone had this in their lives.
Thirty years ago a group of 15 year olds taught me what was required and needed to truly become a force for growth and optimal expression of self. My hope is this blog can do the same for you!