Altar Call Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 5, 2006

 

 

Caring for people more valuable than sharing your opinions

 

A great lesson life has taught me is that people are blessed more by our caring than by our opinions. Yet many people seem oblivious to this truth.

If we are at all teachable most of us learn this basic truth in a hundred different ways. We learn it early as children. Wise parents do not insist that their children agree with them in all things; they recognize that people are different and even encourage individuality in their children.

Some children, for example, will not like spinach but may enjoy green beans. What is important is that children eat green vegetables, not that they are forced to eat spinach. Since green beans will do the trick, there is no need to blow a gasket because a child refuses to eat spinach.

The use of such wisdom by loving parents helps us to grasp this truth: Love is essential even though opinions may be different. So what matters is that a child feel loved, not that the child shares all the opinions of the parents.

My parents had strong feelings about many things. When I was growing up, they refused to work on Sundays unless the ox was in the ditch. They would not allow me or my siblings to go to a movie on Sunday. These and other principles they instilled in us when we were young. But they did not disown us when, as adults, we began to disagree with some of their opinions.

What I finally realized after many years as an adult is that my parents modeled this truth in our home for their children caring is vastly more important than opinions. Opinions are really a dime a dozen. Love, however, is a fundamental need of the human spirit. Without genuine caring, all the opinions in the world are worthless.

I learned this concept also as a pastor. People are not sitting in their homes waiting for the pastor to come by and share his opinions about everything under the sun. Actually this is so true that nobody really gives a hoot about what the pastor thinks until they know he has a heart, and that he truly cares about people.

This has given birth to the dictum that most pastors have embraced: people do not care what you know until they know that you care. Some pastors have learned the hard way that people will not even listen to their opinions, much less really hear them, until they know deep down that their pastor cares about them.

As a brash young pastor I had opinions about everything from the evil of drinking alcohol to the phony healing services of television evangelist Oral Roberts. I learned fairly quickly that people were not waiting with baited breath to hear what I thought; they were wondering if I had any compassion to share with them.

The real bore for me today is the person who pretends to know something about every subject and is chomping at the bit to spray the air with his inflexible views. You can never have a decent conversation with the person; all you can do is listen or walk away.

Everywhere you turn in our culture you are bombarded with opinions about calcium, cloning, Iraq, abortion, President Bush, illegal immigrants, medicine, fraud, crime, the warming of the earth, and a thousand other things. There are so many opinions you hardly know whose you can trust.

The bottom line for me is simply this: Opinions become useful only within the context of love, and nobody wants to know what you think until they know you care about them. Are we not all fed up with opinions but still hungry for love?

Care about me and I may listen to your opinions but please, keep them to yourself until I ask you what you think. And do remember to shut up real often so you can hear what I think.

There is a good chance we may disagree, but that will be alright as long as I know you care about me and you know that I care about you. + + + +