The Satisfying Discomfort of Valuing Others
How would you answer this question: “Do I value people?” Typically, most people would say, “Of course I value people. “ The follow up question though, is: Do people know you value them? What’s your answer? These questions were asked on a Leadershift call a few weeks back, and one student answered the latter question in a very convicting way.
Do people know you value them? Ben responded by saying, “No, unfortunately not. I value people from my comfort zone, not from what they need.” This stirred something up inside me because - oh goodness - how true that can be. We serve people the way that is easiest for us so that we can feel good about ourselves. We decide how we want to make other’s feel appreciated without considering what the other people would most benefit from. Often this behavior isn’t easily identified because it’s under the umbrella of service to others, but when that service to others is marked with selfishness or laziness - or maybe even fear - then that act of service could easily turn into hinderance. My comfort zone is irrelevant when I am trying to let someone know they are valued. It can’t be about me in that moment; it has to be about them. As I study more about what it means for me to be a wife and a mother and I learn how to better serve my husband, one author, Martha Peace, pointed out that a lot of times what someone truly needs won’t be something we would selfishly want to give. It requires stepping outside of our own comforts, understanding the one we seek to serve, and then making a sacrifice.
Here’s a very personal example that happened this week: Father’s Day is coming up next month, and as I thought about ways I could celebrate my sweet husband, the daddy to my baby girl, I realized that one of the most refreshing gifts I could give Jerry would be time. So, I coordinated with Jerry’s brother to make sure he would be available, and then I created a coupon that I gave to Jerry as an early Father’s Day gift. On Memorial Day this year, I’m giving him a “recharge day” where he and his older brother will spend the whole day together doing whatever they decide.
Do I want my husband gone all day one of his days off when he could be spending time with me and our daughter? Not particularly, but I know that he will come back home that night refreshed and recharged, and that is something Jerry greatly values. I merely share this story because it is fresh, and it is the fruition of serving outside of my own comforts. I’ve always loved giving people gifts, and I’ve been told on countless occasions that I’m a great gift giver. In fact, one time when I was taking an evaluation and was asked, “What are you good at?” my number one answer was “giving gifts.” Sometimes even the best material gifts aren’t what someone really needs though.
Maybe someone is working on a project. An obvious gift might be tools for that project, but what if what they really needed was someone to get in the trenches with them and give their time or guidance on how to proceed with said project?
I believe that often a person will feel the most valued not through the gifts you give them (however specific and intentional they may be) but through the time you make for them. Maybe it’s uncomfortable offering your time to someone you don’t know very well, but maybe that’s exactly what they need. You have to know the person you are serving. Ask yourself, “How can I show them they are valued?” This will be personalized to each person in your life. You can’t copy and paste.
When we serve others in ways most convenient to us, our motives are askew, and the sentiment is often lost. Who have you served this week? How did you serve them? Would those people feel valued, or simply feel like you did a favor for them?
Who you value matters, but if they don’t know that they are valued by you then something needs to change. Valuing others doesn’t leave room for selfishness. I challenge you to make a list of the people you value most in life. I’m sure you’ll have family and friends on the list, maybe a pastor or a boss and some co-workers. Now go through your list and ask yourself of each person- “How have I demonstrated that I value them recently?” If you have a hard time answering that question, spend intentional time concocting ways you will serve them in the way that they need.