Jesus taught in parables that were relatable and rich in context. These stories allowed Him to connect with the people of Israel at a heart level.
In the story of the rich, young ruler we see a man who seemingly has everything. He has money, authority, status, and is living a comfortable life. In his own mind, he’s also a righteous man who keeps all of God’s commandments. Jesus sees through all of that performance-based righteousness though. He sees the idols and pride, and His interaction with this young man inevitably becomes a parable to each of us as readers of the text.
By truly seeing the young man, Jesus is able to point him straight to the truth that pierces his heart. He speaks to him with compassion. He speaks to him directly with care and concern for his soul. He speaks to him in a way that challenges his mindset and lifestyle, yet does it all with love and care.
Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler is a great model for us. Deep relationships take work. They call for humility and intentionality, self-sacrifice and a desire to put the needs of others before our own. When we truly see people and connect with their hearts, we have the ability to speak into their lives to challenge, encourage, and strengthen them in their faith.
The 3 Emotional Needs of Any Relationship
Attunement, containment, and repair are the three emotional needs of any relationship that is moving toward greater love. These three components provide all the support someone needs to feel the safety to be open and authentic, vulnerable and transparent. It is in this space that growth occurs and true healing can take place in the human heart.
Attunement: Seeing Beneath the Surface
Attunement is more than just looking someone in the eyes when they’re speaking with you. Attunement is the desire to truly know someone. It’s the act of engaging with the heart and mind of another, connecting in a real and powerful way – understanding what they are feeling, what they are thinking, and what is happening for them internally. It builds trust and provides a sense of safety. It demonstrates a humble curiosity that leads to a greater depth of emotional understanding.
No one models this better than Jesus, who is continually attuned to every person He encounters throughout the New Testament (Mark 10:17-27, Luke 10:38-42, John 4). Our lives are full of many types of relationships – marital, parental, familial, vocational, and social – and each of these relationships require connection to flourish. Learning to see others the way Jesus sees us leads to deep, rich relationships that provide love and safety in a world where our adversary seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
Containment: Holding the Sacred Stories of Others
Containment is honoring another in who they are, as one created in the image of God, by allowing them to fully express their emotions in a given moment. It’s the idea of being attuned to another in an effort to allow them to work through their experience in a way that helps their heart return to peace, hope, and love. It is honoring them by being open and vulnerable with their story. At times, this becomes difficult because the emotions can be pointed at you, the listener, making it difficult to hear a hard truth and containment can become complicated.
In these moments, we need to train our hearts and minds to respond with curiosity. We must ask questions to understand the “how” and “why” behind the emotions being shared. We ask questions to develop understanding, and then we can respond in humility and kindness. This allows for the experiences of others to be heard and honored and for trust to be built.
Repair: Restoring the Brokeness Caused by Harm
Finally, in order to live in harmony with others, we must be willing and able to practice repair. Repair is the naming of grief and harm and working toward healing the trust broken in moments of rupture. This may seem complex but Jesus insists that it is imperative to living in gospel-community.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!
We are going to make mistakes. We are going to do things that offend. We are going to hurt people in word and action throughout our lives. In order for those relationships to continue and, more importantly, to thrive and grow, we must be willing to ask for, and offer, forgiveness.
In other words, repair is repentance. It is asking for forgiveness and not repeating the behaviors that caused harm. Adam Young, host of The Place We Find Ourselves podcast, puts it this way:
Rupture and repair are part of relationships. If relationships were meant to be rupture free – if you never did harm – what would we need Jesus for? What need do you have of the Cross? What do you need God to redeem you from?
Repentance is something you get to do WITHOUT shame because your failures have been nailed to the Cross.
Repair allows for growth in trust and love between people. It is a path toward greater depth in relationships and community.
In John 13:35, Jesus says that people will know us by our love. If we want the Kingdom of God to be felt on earth, the church must be a sanctuary where people feel seen because we’re attuned to them, where they feel honored because we make room to contain their stories, and where we’re humbly committed to repair.
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