My daughter is moving into her first unfurnished apartment in a month. Among the things she needs is a new bed. We went to a local store on July 4 that was advertising a special sale. We found the mattresses in this department store and began looking. Several beds were out of our price range and some were just not comfortable. We found two that were within $100 of each other that were both fairly comfortable. We just had one or two questions about the beds to help my daughter make up her mind. It was at this point, we were approached by an enthusiastic salesman.
When he approached, he introduced himself. He told us about his history in selling mattresses including his work at an unnamed (but strongly inferred) competitor down the street. He then proceeded to tell us his philosophy of sales and the need to always be honest about the product and the sale. After this, he began talking about the various ways that people pick a mattress – some starting from the price and others from comfort. He asked my daughter if she slept on her back, side, or front in order to help him determine the best mattress for her. All the while, he still did not know what WE needed or what questions we had and he had not addressed our most burning need. I interjected with our needs and our previous exploration before he arrived. We then learned that though we wanted to just load up a mattress into my truck that this was not an option. It would HAVE to be delivered…and delivery is not free. If we purchased a certain bed frame, the delivery would be free and we did need a bed frame. However, it became clear that we were not going to get the bed for the advertised price and we would not be able to leave with it that day. So, we left with no bed and decided to “examine our options”. We thanked “Mr. Enthusiasm” for his time.
When were in the car, my daughter talked about how frustrating that whole experience had been. She said, “I didn’t need him to tell me his whole philosophy of sales, I just needed him to ‘do’ his philosophy of sales.” I immediately thought about how many times in my life that sentence could be applicable. I thought about my counseling career. In the early years as I was trying to figure out who I was a therapist, I would often try to tell clients about my primary theory or method. (UGH! Just the thought of having done that makes me cringe now.) Sure some people care, but most do not. They just want to know if you can help. They want to know if they will be understood. If I cannot demonstrate that I care and that I am listening then whatever my theory may be, it is worthless.
As I reflected, I thought about some Christians I know. When they enter into the world – work, school, clubs, etc. – it is very important for them to let people know what they believe. “You need to know that I am a Christian and because of that I will not do X or I believe Y.” It seems very important for them to be clear about their theory of faith and Christianity. However, most people don’t care. In fact, the others may now want to distance themselves from you because they don’t feel you can relate to them or worse, you will judge them. What most people care about is how you interact with them. They notice if you care. They notice if you listen. They will notice if you offer love and caring. Most people don’t need to hear your theory of Christian life; they just need to have you live it.
Like the over-enthusiastic mattress salesman, too often people may leave an encounter with a Christian not feeling heard or understood. They may not leave with anything more than what they had when they entered the conversation because we have not taken the time to meet them where they are. The mattress salesman assumed he knew what we needed, but we never got what we needed. A person may not need to yet know everything about our history and beliefs. They may just need to know if we can answer their two questions. Will you listen? Do you care?