In an attempt to find an exercise that will help loosen up my always-tight shoulders, I have recently taken up “swimming.” I put the word in quote marks because I don’t want to offend the true athletes out there who would not call my freestyle flapping in the water actual swimming. I keep meaning to google for tips on how-to or to download Swimming for Dummies, but I’m usually lucky to find time to swim in the first place.
Still, I wasn’t the only one to notice my need for a few pointers. One of the other ladies at the all-female gym where my exercise pool is located obviously also took note because she offered me some unsolicited advice. Because she managed to present that advice in what I thought of at the time as a Southern-lady approach, I was very glad to get it. I put it into practice during my next swim, and I feel like it is helping me do better.
Only later did it occur to me that what I first defined as Southern-lady style might be better described as a truly Christian approach. Because the woman assumed nothing, approached me with gentleness, and offered advice that could only make me better if I were smart enough to use it, I think she taught me more than just a few swimming tips. If I can remember her approach the next time I see an opportunity to share a Biblical truth, I will do much better than just improve my breathing strokes.
Before I dig into what are really just a few, simple steps for approaching a person with a lesson of any sort, but especially on Biblical truth, let’s look at what the Bible says about such instruction:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted, Paul implores the Galatians (6:1).
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added).
. . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. . .(2 Timothy 2:25).
Christ, the ultimate Teacher, reminds us:
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).
In other words, when we are sure that what we wish to approach a person about is a subject that comes from our love for that person and that we are likewise clear on exactly where we stand in relation to that same subject, then we may attempt to approach that person in love with gentleness.
It may go without saying, but I will say it anyway: No process like this should be attempted without prayer and without the support of the Holy Spirit. God is powerful. He can hear our words even before we utter them, and He can answer our prayers before our next heartbeat.
So, here is the promised, practical approach to a Southern-lady style, a Christian style of offering advice or wise words that may or may not have been requested in the first place:
- Approach the other person by assuming the very best about that person:
- “You are so much younger than me, I’m sure you got to have lessons for swimming”–was the kind lady’s opening line to me.
- Ask for permission to give advice:
- “I had to ask my daughter for advice on how to do the strokes and breathe because all I knew how to do was stay afloat. Would you like me to tell you what she told me?”
- Find something good/great to say about the other person as part of your conversation:
- “You have such a nice swimsuit. Where did you get it?”
- Close the conversation with the possibility for future communication:
- “It was so nice talking to you. I’m sure I’ll see you here again.”
When you talk to somebody from the heart in this way, with no ulterior motive except a true leading from the Holy Spirit, how can you fail?
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.