Encounters Are Sacred – Be Interested Over Interesting
“Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding.” Proverbs 2:2 (NASB)
Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
How often do you find yourself in a grocery store, an elevator, or a stroll through your neighborhood where you encounter a stranger, someone new?
In situations like this, what do you do? Many of us choose to smile and keep going, but occasionally we actually stop and engage, asking questions and taking a genuine interest in this new person we’ve just met. Actively listening to them and being present to find maybe some common ground or shared identity.
This kind of listening requires we use our mind to really “hear” what they are saying rather than simply listening while thinking of what we will say next about ourselves. All too often, we try so hard to be interesting to others that we forget to be interested in them.
And let’s face it – we’ve all been there!
Being Interested Over Interesting
Authentically connecting over someone else’s joy or possibly even their struggle can be life changing for both of you. Many will recognize these as divine moments where God has specifically arranged face-to-face encounters.
This has happened to me more times than I can recall. Our words and actions can be powerful and meaningful to perfect strangers, no matter how small or insignificant they seem to us.
So, what exactly does it look like when we’re interested over interesting?
It’s natural for us to want to impress people and talk about ourselves in the hope others will like us. We want to feel like we’re interesting! “Well, I’ve done this, or traveled here, or went to college there, or have this job, or I’m the mother of 5, or …” But what happens when we meet someone who really needs us to listen, to hear them?
When we truly feel we’re in one of those God moments, our focus should shift. We should want to be interested in the person we’re with, asking them open and honest questions about their life, being present and letting them know they are heard and valued.
Yes, it can happen! I’ve seen it for myself. Not long ago I met a woman who was recently divorced. I could see the pain still lingering in her eyes and hear the sorrow catching in her voice. I heard her story and invited her to a group I had just heard about for women starting over. Her eyes lit up and a big smile came to her face saying, “I was meant to meet you today – I just asked in my prayers that God would lead me to a new community!”
It’s in those moments that God calls us to be interested in others. It’s in those moments – moments that are not coincidences – for us to have connection with another person. These encounters can be doorways to something larger for them and for you!
The Jesus Way
Only one person who lived among us could legitimately be considered “the world’s most interesting person” and yet He was the most “interested” person ever born. That person was, of course, Jesus! He had one purpose: to glorify and worship His father while sharing unconditional love for others.
When we study how Jesus interacted with people during his ministry, we see time and again his unique way of encountering strangers, connecting with them intentionally, and drawing out their stories without drawing attention to himself. Consider just a few examples:
- A Samaritan woman by a well (John 4:7-42)
- A crippled beggar near the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-5)
- A rich young ruler in a crowd (Matthew 19:16-30)
- Jairus, a synagogue official and a hemorrhaging woman (Mark 5:1-43)
- An adulterous woman brought by the scribes (John 8:1-11)
Jesus connected with people directly through their thoughts and feelings. He understood redemption comes only when hearts are changed and to do that, people need to be encouraged to share their stories.
Jesus always sought to understand those he encountered rather than to be understood by them. Instead, he knew for ideas to work on the hearts and minds of sinners, those ideas but come from the inside of the men and women, rather than being told to them. This means listening, hearing, loving.
May we all take note and bow down to that purpose for ourselves. Never forget, every encounter is sacred. Be present, be you.
May God always guide your path.