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Posts Tagged ‘Active Participation’

Buying a Car Like Going to the Dentist

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009


As I contemplated going to work for a Toyota Dealership I looked back over the years of my own car buying experiences. I had purchased a lot of cars in my lifetime. When I was 17 years old I was ecstatic when buying  a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle.




I have bought cars from individuals, dealers, and yes, even off of Ebay! Each time I experienced my own internal battle to find something I felt comfortable with at a price I wanted to pay.  I can also remember many of those times when I bought a car I really couldn’t afford.


I have wondered if the challenge of buying a car stems mainly from our own discomfort - with either parting with our money - or not having enough money to buy what we wanted. None the less, it came down to making a decision that would potentially impact many years of our life financially and practically.


I had a customer recently named Shelly who was interested in buying a fun little sports car. She test drove the car. At the point of trying to make a decision she said she wanted to talk about buying the car. So we moved to my desk and I got out the paper work.


At this point, I realized how many times I had sat at that same desk in my own lifetime.




Does this picture cause any car buying trauma?


They all look alike. Small, three chairs, inside a little cubicle often full of intimidation and fear. Our internal process begins; “How much can I afford? How much will they sell this for?” Most of us are familiar with the battle for the win! We want the best car for the best price. The owner or dealership wants the best price too; the one where they make the most money. Everyone is after the same dollar in the middle of the deal.


It is at this point where we have likely already found the car of our dreams and we tend to want it at any price and are willing to compromise some in our own checkbook to get it. We will even begin to make bargains with ourselves. “Hum, maybe I can eat out less or buy less clothing this year”, our thoughts ramble through possibilities. “How can I come up with the extra $30 per month that I need to get this car?”


As Shelley sat down I tried to put myself in their shoes. I tried to relate to her experience and be as honest as I could with myself. As we wrote up the deal the afternoon had already moved close to the dinner hour. Shelley told me that she had a special place to be at 5:00 and had scheduled to meet with friends that would be waiting for her.


The mangers tried to remind me that we needed to get her to a decision and completion of the deal. I understood their point. But I was in conflict with how inconvenient it was at times when I was trying to buy a car. I didn’t want to pressure her to make the deal even if it would compromise her commitment to another person. I remember a time when I had to call someone to opt out of something I had made a promise to attend because I was sitting in the sales cubicle myself.


After a quick evaluation of my own life experience, I related to Shelley that I fully understood and that I had no intention of holding her up so as to make her miss something she had committed to. I freed her up to come back the next day to complete the deal. As you might imagine my managers were confused that I let her go but I had a higher calling and purpose here.


I made the relationship with Shelley more important than buying a car right there and then. In my mind, if I was successful at showing her I could relate and I was as committed as she was to other relationships, then maybe I would not only sell her a car but she might tell others about me for their own car buying needs. I found that in the end, Shelley didn’t buy the car because she also had higher values. She did not have the budget to buy a car at that time. She said she would be more ready next year after paying attention to some current debt.


Maybe next year Shelley will be in a better position to by a car with more confidence about spending the money. Maybe next year I’ll find that by building relationships through actively listening to others’ needs will pay off multifold!


I want to be respected, believed, and valued so I want to treat others that way too. I wouldn’t want my customers to leave after a grueling and postponing experience with buying a car. I’d rather have them say that I was one salesman that respected them all the way through the buying process.


I was told when entering into this job that relationships sell cars. After being there for only two weeks, I am not sure they really meant what they said. At least not in the way I try to value relationships. The higher calling is to put this world and its idols out of the way and value what God does – people.


The Journey of Thomas – Active Participation

Friday, June 26th, 2009

James 1:19
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.


Prov. 18:13
He who answers before listening that is his folly and his shame.


Part Two: The Way

The Journey of Thomas has been built in three sections. The first one is based on gaining honesty in our own life. It was a time to develop a better understanding of our own hearts. Each session was designed to help us to become more aware of our own life experiences with the hope we would be more able to share them with others.


The second section is called “The Way”. We are going to introduce some practical tools and skill development to learn more about what we can do to connect more intimately with others. The Way is the “how to” of this curriculum. It will involve building new habits, learning new ways of relating to others that are more effective. We will also have to break some old habits. We begin with Active Participation.


The Art of Listening

Listening to another person’s heart can be one of the most affirming actions we can enter into. Hearing the heart cries, the joys, the desires of another person can build a rich deep relationship and create a connection that will promote a stronger desire to spend time with one another.


Sometimes we are remiss and allow distractions to get in the way of hearing some important things from someone we know. Television, cell phones, busy schedules, or even our own life issues can all interrupt significant interaction with others.


Or when we are faced with a challenging conversation it is easy to respond to defend ourselves or to attempt to “fix” the problem that has arisen rather than to take the time to truly listen to what is being said. Sometimes the details we hear lead us to a misunderstanding of the real issues and our reaction can be to feel hurt or misunderstood and we react out of our own wounds.


So many of us are habitual “fixers” and try so hard to find solutions for our hurting or challenged friends or family. Sometimes the frustration that may come from the conversation can come from our “fixing” ways. Maybe our friend doesn’t want to be fixed; they just want to feel heard. Fixing can be a way of trying to get someone else’s problem out of my already overwhelmed life. Or, it can take focus off of the person and onto how skilled I am at fixing someone else. The motive to overrun another person with our own goals will often thwart listening to their heart.


Relating in a “fixing” mode will often lead to arguing, bantering, and overall a lack of effective relationship.


Prov. 20:3
It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.


Active participation requires of us to practice the art of listening. Psalm 116: 1-2 is my life verse because I felt so unheard most of my life.


I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.


My journey towards Christ started from knowing that He heard my heart cry for help. His personal response to my hurting heart drew me into His hope.


We must learn to listen in such a way as to turn our ears to one another when it is important to do so. It is important to know when it is time to put down the book, to turn off the television, to shut off our cell phones. Can you imagine how much it would help you to know that when we really need to share our heart with the person we have chosen to allow in, that they would turn to us with an undivided ear? I believe that everyone really desires to know they are significant and the when they are in trouble, there will be someone who will care. No matter what kind of bravado we can put up around ourselves, we are all human and I believe need a listening ear at sometime in our lives.


Enter With Our Whole Heart

When we decided to enter into honest, authentic, and transparent relationships we must choose to enter in with our whole heart. This requires of us to set aside our lives for the sake of one another.


Phil. 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.


Letting go of our personal agendas or rights for the time needed to affirm something in someone else’s life that deserves our attention is a skill worth learning. When we have become honest enough with ourselves to know how much we desire to feel heard, to feel significant, we can be much more aware of this need in others.


Maybe that television program can be let go; or the score of the game can be seen at a later time. We might be out to lunch with a friend and we just heard something that pricked our heart and we can put down the drink or sandwich at least for a moment to gain eye contact with our friend letting them know we are listening.


Defensive Posture

We might have found ourselves involved in a difficult discussion with our spouse and we feel defensive about what is being brought out. It would be helpful to develop the self control to not respond in defensiveness. But rather it would be great to learn to turn our ears to the other person to hear them. This will go a long way at staving off fruitless arguments.


Many years ago in my growth as Christian one of the most important things I learned is that I do not really have any “rights”. I realized that without the grace of the Almighty God, I am dead and my very breath is a gift from Him. The fact that I am alive is God’s provision for me at His will. This helps me to be a lot less defensive with others when I feel challenged or threatened by something someone has said. I also have learned to be honest with myself. At least inside my heart I know that more than likely, there is a lot of truth in a challenging comment or situation. I know that I may hold at least some of the blame for the rift or accusation. It is a pretty thin pancake that doesn’t have two sides!


A friend of mine told once that when a conversation is really heated up, it can be like a racing herd of rhinoceroses and not the best time to try to stop them because they will trample you. It was wise to let them run themselves out and then go and deal with the issue that may have caused them to run. I have found this to be such wise counsel. Don’t try to come running into a hurting situation with your best memory of God’s word. It would be best to listen to their heart.


Listening to the Wounded Heart

I have worked with a lot of wounded and abused people over the years. I have been wounded too. I have learned that what I needed more than anything else in order to experience healing was an ear of concern or validation. I typically figured out the rest with the Lord and over time. Because I knew this about myself it has made it much easier to learn the skill of listening to others rather than trying to remove the pain by my insights or instruction for them. I can easily slip into a teaching way and therefore I also learned that this is a skill that must be practiced.


An example of this is when I was in my forties, I told my sister that my step father had crossed some serious sexual boundaries with me when I was only ten years old. After I shared this with her, she just looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “John, I never knew this happened to you. I am so sorry”. I cannot tell you how much healing occurred in my heart that day just because someone that was there, who knew the people involved, said they heard and understood. I felt validated, and a salve of healing poured over my wound that day. All she did was to hear my heart and I felt it deep inside. She didn’t try to minimize, fix, or over compensate through her own efforts.


Can You Relate?

Active participation in one another’s lives requires the sacrifice of our own. Jesus modeled this in setting aside His own life for ours. He is asking us to do the same for one another.


Can you relate to what someone has shared? When I was in a terrible situation in my life with broken relationships and increasing shame, a friend told me to go to an Al-anon/Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He said that I might find a better group of friends there. I had nothing to lose so I went. I will never forget the impact I experienced at that first meeting. I don’t remember what it was but I openly shared something about my life and a lady across the room stood up and said, “John, I can relate to what you have shared”. That one act of listening moved me to a brand new life with God. I learned the Serenity Prayer and felt led to seek God the next time I was experiencing the pain I had gotten myself into. Her active relating that day helped me to feel less alone and more motivated to seek help. I believe this was the first time I sought God from my heart to His.

One of my favorite scriptures is:


Heb. 13:3
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.


As Christians one of the most powerful tools we have is the ability to share the testimony of our life experience with those who are stuck or bound by their own prisons. Active Participation leads us to put our own lives in the shoes of someone else’s experience, because we recognize we have been there. We have all known a prison, a shame filled experience where we were so bound we may have been unwilling to leave the prison cell due to our own fears. We needed desperately to know we weren’t alone. Someone coming alongside us who would just listen can be the trick!


To actively listen to someone’s heart will require us to get into our own hearts. It may be a vulnerable place for us to go but taking the risk is worth it. It is a personal sacrifice we become willing to make for the sake of God’s kingdom and His people.


© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 3818


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