Over the last several years, I have read a mountain of books on grief. A consistent recommendation for helping others who are grieving is “simply be present with them. Do not offer advice.” Advice-giving throws up a wall, whereas presence gives space for healing. What is true when dealing with those who are grieving is also true in all our other relationships.
Simple presence communicates volumes!
What do we mean by “being present?”
· Presence implies undivided attention. Undivided attention implies the absence of distractions.
· Presence is never rushed.
· Presence gives priority to listening over speaking. Of course, timely words are always valuable, but they will come more often when preceded by slow listening.
· Presence is felt as we learn how to become deep listeners. Deep listening is listening at soul level combined with thoughtful questions.
· Presence is powerful. Presence speaks louder than words. We feel love through presence.
Learning to be present is both an art and a skill. Just like artists hone their craft by practicing, our skill at being present grows as we practice. We can’t fake presence. Our loved ones know when we are distracted. They can tell when we want to quickly fix them with our brilliant answers. They can feel our impatience. This is why presence is so important. Presence is love on display. Growing in the practice of presence is one of the most loving things we can do for our relationships.
Imagine the difference presence would make in our closest relationships. Good relationships would grow more connected as presence would invite deeper caring. Struggling relationships would have a chance to heal as listening replaced judgment and attention replaced distraction. This is the fruit of focused presence.
Challenge yourself with the following questions:
- When I am with people, am I fully present?
- Who most needs me to be more present?
- What do I need to change most to grow in the practice of presence?
PS – Growing in the practice of presence is also needed for our relationship with God. Too often, our time with God is limited to fast, distracted actions like skimming a Bible passage quickly and voicing a few rushed prayers. Yet, doesn’t God desire most our presence? Doesn’t He long for us to linger with Him?