Have you ever been involved in a hijacking? Yikes…I have!

And I’ll bet most of you have too, and it doesn’t involve an airplane.

“Hijacked” refers to the act of seizing control of, or diverting something for one’s own purposes, often in a forceful or unauthorized manner. In the context of conversation or communication, “hijacking” occurs when someone redirects the focus or purpose of the exchange to serve their own agenda or narrative, rather than respecting the original intention or the needs of the other person involved.

The Second Step in Living-Connected in a way that heals is about being fully present and really listening with the intent to understand the hurting person’s painful story. To offer solace to the broken soul is to be present in its entirety—to listen without agenda, to sit in silence without the need to reply and without judgment.  

When a hurting person experiences someone who is fully present and genuinely listening, without judgment or advice, they can feel a range of emotions and sensations that contribute to their healing process. But…when they feel that the listener is distracted, judgmental, or not really paying attention the trust is broken and the pain is compounded. 

In the story of Job from the Bible, his friends initially practiced the ministry of presence by sitting with him in silence for seven days and seven nights. Job had experienced immense suffering, including the loss of his children, wealth, and health. When his three friends heard about his troubles, they traveled to be with him.

Upon their arrival, they were deeply moved by Job’s distress and showed their support by sitting with him in silence fully focused on his suffering. They refrained from speaking, which is an important aspect of the ministry of presence. Their initial response was a demonstration of empathy and understanding, acknowledging the depth of Job’s pain without trying to offer solutions or explanations for his suffering.

However, as the story unfolds, Job’s friends begin to speak, attempting to provide explanations for his suffering. Unfortunately, their words took on a judgmental and accusatory tone, suggesting that Job’s suffering was a result of his wrongdoing. They questioned Job’s integrity and urged him to repent, assuming that his suffering was a divine punishment for some hidden sin.

Despite their initial well-intentioned presence, their attempts to provide answers and interpretations for his suffering ultimately caused further distress for Job and strained their relationship.

The story of Job serves as a reminder that the ministry of presence involves being with someone in their pain without judgment, offering empathy and understanding, and refraining from offering unsolicited advice or explanations. It emphasizes the importance of truly listening and being there for someone who is suffering, without trying to fix or explain their situation.

We have all experienced a conversation with someone who isn’t fully present or listening…little eye contact, talking over you, little body language, being distracted, or hijacking the conversation. These all confirm that disinterested listeners are more concerned about themselves. You can’t hide a wandering mind!

Being present means being fully conscious of the moment, and fully engaged with their story, free from noise and distractions. You are there to sit with them in their suffering, ready to listen when they want to talk about their pain. You have to resist the temptation to talk or react to their story. You have to be okay with silence and let them tell their story at their own pace. You are not there to tell him/her how to feel or how you feel about their story. And you don’t need to try and fix their circumstances, even if it seems obvious to you. Don’t quote scripture or try and put their hardship in perspective…you are giving them the gift of listening to their story with the intent of understanding their pain.

It’s important to avoid hijacking a conversation, which can occur when, although well-meaning, you interrupt their story to share your own similar experiences believing that sharing a similar story of pain will help establish a connection through shared experiences. 

Or, maybe something in their story triggers you, causing you to share your own painful story. 

However, in both scenarios, the conversation is hijacked and the focus is shifted away from the person who is sharing their pain, ultimately diminishing their experience. The gift of focusing on the wounded soul is shifted to you, the listener, which defeats the goal of paying full attention to their story. 

Actively listening to a painful story and being fully present is the gift of a soul-to-soul healing connection. This may be challenging as it requires resisting the urge to talk, to share your own experiences, or to be distracted in any way. Empathetic listening and understanding should be the goal here, to fully understand their pain.

Hurting people need a safe place to divulge their painful stories. Follow these guidelines to establish you genuinely care:

  • Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply
  • Be fully present and conscious of the moment with no distractions
  • Resist the temptation to talk or judge
  • Be open to silence and let them tell their story at their own pace
  • Sincerely try to understand rather than fix their problem
  • Avoid hijacking the conversation by talking about your own experience

Think about the merits of building our relational foundation on Living-Connected with people. 

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