Before the Super Bowl yesterday, ESPN took a brief segment to turn the focus away from the upcoming game and discuss their recently deceased colleague, Stuart Scott. While Scott was always a talented and well known Sportscenter anchor, that’s not really what they wanted to discuss yesterday, and it generally has been a side note in most of the tributes made over the past month by those who knew him. Instead, each of his colleagues has tearfully recounted how he was there for them when their children were born, how he was the first one to greet them on their first day at work, how he would go out of his way to be kind to their children, how he would call and check on them even as he was enduring his own cancer treatment.
As I watched the latest tribute yesterday, the thought that stayed on my mind was that there is no way to measure the impact of a person who cares about others. As his friends and coworkers tell it, it’s clear that Scott regularly thought about people other than himself, and then he acted on it. That made all the difference in the world to those around him. As Christians, if we are truly walking in the steps of Christ we must have a similar effect on people. If you want to make an impact while you’re here on earth, you make that impact by how you treat other people. Consider these three ways to grow in our relationships with others.
1. Listen to people
We’ve all got something to say. Instead of taking that to mean we all need to say something, look at it the other way. The other person has something to say, too. Just as we like it when others listen to us, it’s important that we listen to others. So many conversations these days (thanks to social media and other modern artificial means of communication) seem to be people talking past each other, taking turns to say what they want to say or tell their own stories. Sometimes we need to talk, and we’re grateful when others listen, and sometimes we need to just stop and show people we care by letting them share what’s on their mind or what’s going on in their lives. Don’t just listen out of duty, either. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Show excitement and compassion and a caring heart. This is one of the best ways to live out Philippians 2:3-4, regarding others as more important than ourselves and looking out for their interests and needs first.
2. Remember them before God
Listening is important, but if that’s the end of our interaction or thoughts about the other person, it doesn’t have much value. We need to remember them and check in on them, and the best way to keep them on our minds is to bring them up in our daily prayers. I feel terrible thinking of times where I’ve told someone I’d pray for them, did it once or twice, then forgot. I never seem to forget about praying for things directly affecting me, but others can easily slip out of our consciousness. But, if we’re taking them before God in prayer we’ll be asking for His presence in their lives and keeping them on our hearts when we’re not around them. Consider how often Paul told his brethren he was praying for them (Colossians 1:9) and how he asked for their prayers in return (1 Thessalonians 5:25). When we’re remembering people before God, we impact their lives in the most powerful way possible.
3. Actively look for ways to build them up
So many times we wish somebody would notice the good job we did or recognize us for something, but it can be easy to want that approval without ever thinking about giving it to others.At the heart of the call to encourage one another in Hebrews 10:23-25 is the idea that we must consider one another. So, try to focus less on your own wants and needs and more on those of the people around you, and then do something about it. Make it a point to notice a job well done. Tell that man at church how you always appreciate his well thought out prayers, or that woman how great of a job she’s doing with her children, or that youth about how encouraging it is to see a younger Christian stay strong. As Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
We’re only here for a short time, and it’s critically important that we let the people around us know that they are important both to us and to God. As I’ve watched the videos about Stuart Scott’s impact on others, I kept thinking about how I want to leave that kind of legacy, not so people think highly of me but so that they see the love of God through me. Every Christian should be known for a love for others like that. To quote Francis Chan, “God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.” To those of you who are good listeners, to those who care, to those who go out of their way to make others feel important – thank you. Your work is invaluable, and sets an example we all need to follow.
By Jack Wilkie
Jack Wilkie is the author of “Failure: What Christian Parents Need to Know About American Education” and is the speaker for Focus Press’s “The Lost Generation” seminar. To schedule a seminar at your church, contact jack@focuspress.org.