Excerpted from “Transformation” by Stephen Arterburn and Dr. David Stoop
1. Be sensitive.
Don’t overburden your listener. People who are suffering are self-absorbed; their pain keeps their attention focused on themselves, their problems, and their needs.
When you begin to confide in another person, ask how you can respect his or her time. Find out when and when not to call. Learn the person’s schedule so you can avoid asking for time or favors that’ll be disruptive. Agree in advance that if you call at an inopportune moment, you won’t have hurt feelings when the person can’t talk right then.
2. Be discreet.
Use care in deciding what is appropriate to talk about and what is not. Avoid explicit sexual details, endless recitals of someone else’s faults, and repetition of the same frustrating events. These are unnecessary for your listener to hear. Become a self-censor so that you don’t become unwelcome.
3. Be honest.
Don’t confess someone else’s sin. Concentrate on your own, and how your attitudes and actions have contributed to your particular circumstances. Playing the role of a victim doesn’t facilitate change. If you do so, your confession will always be shallow, and your spiritual progress will be slow at best.
4. Set reasonable expectations.
Don’t expect more than the listener is able to give. If your listener is not a trained counselor, he or she cannot be your therapist. Your expectations from those who listen to your troubles should be limited and realistic, which means that you see them as listeners, not fixers.
5. Don’t stifle your emotions.
If you do not confess the emotions associated with truth, you fail to speak the whole truth. Feelings are a large part of your story. It is deceptive to deny your emotions, refuse to weep, hide your anger, smile over your sadness, or bluster through real fears. Besides, these are counterproductive to expressing the truth. Tears and rage are not signs of weakness or of being unspiritual. They are authentic human responses to pain and shame. Never let the desire to appear strong, keep you from being honest.
6. Maintain healthy independence.
Some people are born rescuers. But if they rescue out of a need to be in control or to feel important, you are likely to become too important to them. If you see that someone is become too attached to you, distance yourself so that the relationship can remain positive and mutually rewarding.