As each of us mature in our God-given gifts, we become more insightful about the strengths and weaknesses of this gift designed with us. In this understanding of how this gift ticks/works, negativity and confusion are replaced with hope and faith. This insight has the ability to make us not only more comfortable in our soul skin but insight into how to temper, reign in and release this gift.
I have been on mom-quest for quite a few years to find the answer to the question: How do you persuade a compassion/mercy spiritual-gifted person to do anything? (see When Talking Suffocates)
I am so excited about today. Brandee from Smooth Stones is guest-hosting – my very first guest host. As I read her post, Love Wins, I thought, “This is how my son feels.” This was the compassion gift talking to me. After I read that, I messaged her, asking “How do you persuade a compassion gift person to do anything” – what is the best way to encourage them. . . .I want to know how to be the parent he needs.”
Who better knows the answer to this question that a compassion gifted person who has learned how to use that gift? She has graciously opened her heart and insight to us today:
When Logic Loses, Love Goes Straight to the Heart
So you long for effective interaction with someone who has the gift of compassion or (as I like to refer to it) mercy. Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed by the drama of it, the roller-coaster of it, or even this other person’s anger. You want nothing more than to guide, help, motivate, or otherwise make a positive difference in this person’s life, but you’re at a loss. How can you grow—or even just maintain/preserve—your relationship with this sensitive other?
Maryleigh perceived correctly that my spiritual gift is mercy and asked me to speak to being parented effectively, given my gift, which led to my compiling the following list of key thoughts. I hope you’ll find it useful regardless of the nature of your relationship with a mercy-gifted person. Before you read the list, take a deep breath and know: you’re to be commended for both recognizing someone else’s spiritual gift and caring enough to seek ways to improve your relationship with this person. God has almost certainly placed you in this person’s life for a reason.
- Realize: your approach is critical; you must pass through her* feelings to get to her thoughts. If you’re careless with her feelings—especially by patronizing, judging, or labeling—she’ll shut down, which is to say: she’ll get stuck over your approach and fail to receive even your best advice.
- Always remember: with her, you’ll get further with love than with logic.
- Postpone a hard conversation until you’re in control of your emotions. Again, she’s sensitive to approach; unless you’re legitimately calm (not just “fake calm”), you’re not going to get the response you want.
- If you’re in control of your emotions but she can’t seem to control hers, acknowledge her feelings, reassure her of your love, and suggest postponing the conversation until a set date and time in the future. If she wants to continue in conversation, you might try unless she’s being verbally abusive in some way but realize: it’s important for her to learn that conversation is most productive when everyone’s in control of his or her emotions.
- Prove to her over time: you’re trustworthy. You’ll never force her to work through her feelings alone. Even if you must postpone a conversation, you’ll never leave her holding the bag for long, let alone forever.
- If you have a good handle on your approach, try to help her see the big picture. She can easily lose perspective, overlooking her long, positive history with a loved one (or even the Lord!) in the face of the present difficulty, and things can become “gloom and doom” in her mind all too easily. If you can somehow teach her (through words and/or example) to take a step back when her emotions threaten to consume, you’ll deeply bless her life. I was in my mid-twenties before I gained enough control to stop hyperventilating and vomiting when especially upset.
- Realize: anger is almost never her (or anyone’s) real emotion. Try to determine and respond to the source of the hurt beneath the anger. If you can see through both anger and hurt to the fear at the core and respond to the fear, all the better.
- Take comfort in the fact that—if she’s being particularly unkind—she’s very likely to experience remorse and offer an apology after calming down. She knows what it’s like to have hurt feelings and doesn’t like to cause them in other people.
- Try to imagine living life with your heart on your sleeve or your nerve endings exposed and know: that’s her reality. Her feelings are more real to her than her thoughts. Never invalidate them, no matter how ridiculous they seem. Look her in the eye. Let her know you’re hearing her. Magic words (but only if they’re true): “I love you and always will, no matter what. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. I’m here for you.”
- Know: it’s better to say nothing than to say something insincere or untrue. She can detect insincerity and lies in a heartbeat.
- Try loosening the reins: she’s probably more trustworthy than you think.
- In as much as possible, give her space and time to process information, make decisions, and even fulfill tasks. She’s probably more innately responsible than you think, especially on her own timetable.
- Help her find a local mentor with the gift of mercy. If she doesn’t seem to come alive under this person’s wings, it’s the wrong fit. Ask the Lord to provide a mentor and choose him or her with care; some people (even within the church!) never learn how to use the gift of mercy responsibly. The more your person can learn about and experience caring for others in a safe environment, in safe ways, the better. Ideally, the local mentor will apply his or her gift in the name of Jesus (as opposed to only in the name of a specific hospital, school, etc.). I recommend that—with a responsible mentor—your person delve specifically into the areas of pastoral care and prayer. In these realms, she’ll have the opportunity to respond to many types of people and situations and may therefore be able to better determine how she’s innately gifted to serve. (For example, even as a teenager, I worked more effectively with adults than with children.)
- Note: an important part of your person’s education will involve discernment. Encourage her to see herself as a steward of her gift of mercy: as having responsibility for how, when, where, why and for/with whom she uses it. Encourage her to seek God’s face before acting so as not to fall prey to those who would take advantage of her kind heart. Again, I can’t recommend enough that she work with a responsible mentor; until she has a solid grasp of her gift, her spirit could easily be crushed (whether intentionally or unintentionally) by someone in need of mercy.
*I do realize that your person may be male. I’ve chosen to refer to your person with female pronouns (her, she, etc.) for the sake of simplicity, also because I’m female and these are things I wish people to know about interacting with me.
Brandee Shafer is an English instructor turned SAHM to the 4 children for whom she records her life and thoughts, through blogging. She, her husband Jim, and their children live in a log cabin on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, where she writes, teaches “homeschool preschool,” and tries, daily, to diminish toppling piles of dishes and laundry.