Needless to say, the first lady politely listened to her friend. An occasional mmhm and other brief, vague comments were the extent of her responses. What she so desperately needed to receive was not forthcoming. Instead she was treated to the great wisdom of her friend without any recognition of her own need. She left with the same needs and even greater feelings of defeat.
Prov 18:13-15, 2. He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame. A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out. A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.
The first lady's heart and spirit was wounded. She didn't need her problems analyzed. She needed a hug and an ear that truly listened. She wanted to be more important to the other lady than that lady's need to share her wisdom. When Job's friends came to support him, the greatest wisdom they offered was they're silence and compassion. All too often, we feel the need to jump in and help when we don't even know the true need.
One class I took in college was on effective listening. We were taught to listen with our complete attention. We were to observe the facial expressions, truly look at the feelings expressed in the eyes, attempt to read the body language. I learned to practice that in all areas of my work and private life. I learned a lot just by being a good listener.
Being human means that we will frequently mess up in our attempts to help. But we have a Savior and Redeemer Who forgives quickly. We have a Holy Spirit Who guides us and helps increase our understanding. So, the next time you find yourself in this type of situation, pray silently for wisdom, listen with all your senses and offer what is truly needed. Offer an ear that really listens, a shoulder to cry on, and a hug. Maybe, a word or two of empathy is okay too.