“Self-referencing” is a term that describes most of our daily behavior. We tend to navigate our way through each day—through conversations, through traffic, through tasks, through interactions—with essentially one question: How does this person or situation help or hinder what I want? So even when we are exquisitely polite to others, we tend not to really see them for them. We usually see them for us…and project our motivations and perspectives onto them. Sometimes it’s functional; sometimes it’s a mess. But it tends to separate us rather than unify us—and unity is the life of love.
So the practice of Encounter is a subtle but powerful shift in our awareness of others and our way of being in the world. It begins with throttling back on our own agenda just a bit because running at breakneck speed through our days makes it impossible for us to see anyone besides ourselves, right? Instead we can move deliberately and attentively through the day with a deep, pervasive interest in what’s happening around us. Particularly the people around us—those made in the image of God and carrying (either gladly or badly) that image in the moment.
The transformational progression looks like this, and it is super simple:
Slowing our pace just a bit
Seeing those around us...and caring about them
Feeling compassion for the needs, hopes, and fears of those we see
Interacting, however briefly, with love.
What do you think? Can you give that a try today? I’ll tell you this: it will bless your socks off.