Echoes of Empathy: Navigating Emotional Conversations in Faith

As I picked up the phone, I took in a deep breath. On the other end of the line was a parent who had emailed and called several people on staff, trying to get information on our Confirmation program. You might think we were being negligent in not responding to her sooner, but all these communications occurred within 24 hours. This interaction, though challenging, was a reminder of a fundamental human need – the need to be heard.

The call was transferred over from the front desk, and I did my typical intro, "Christopher Wesley speaking, how can I assist you today?"

Out came a rollercoaster of emotions that boiled down to two main points: "I need your help because I feel like my family is behind in what they are supposed to do with everything. You are the 100th person I've spoken to, and while I'm skeptical about your ability to help me, I need to see if you can. Bottom line, I'm feeling like the biggest failure, so what are you going to do about it?"

I've taken a lot of these calls recently, not just from parents. Over the past few months, I've heard people vent, lament, and share their fear of failing, not being heard, and not knowing how to move forward. While I'm not a therapist or counselor, what I've come to realize is:


Not too long ago, I came across a quote from author and professor David Ausburger:

"Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost the same." - David Ausburger

I think we often forget that a large part of sharing the faith involves accompanying others. Accompaniment isn't just showing someone the Truth; it involves being present with them, ensuring they know they're not alone regardless of what they face. Whether you work in pastoral ministry or administration, it's critical to let others know that they are heard because it shows them that they are loved.


It might sound too simple, but thanking someone for reaching out and telling you what's on their plate is huge. When you say things like:

  • "Thank you so much for reaching out."
  • "I appreciate you sharing what's going on in your life."
  • "I'm so glad that you are telling me this."

It tells the person that you value what they have to say. It also slows down the conversation, which is especially important if someone is angry or frustrated. It lets them know that you are for them, and not just another obstacle to overcome. Remember, your tone of voice and body language are also crucial in affirming their inquiry.


After you've affirmed that they've done the right thing in reaching out to you, it's critical to have clarity about what they need. Too many times we jump to conclusions and try to fix a problem that might not even be there. But, you won't know that unless you ask open-ended questions and invite the person to TELL YOU MORE. Asking someone to share more information involves commitment, but you won't truly be able to help someone unless you have the information you need. And when you take the time to ask questions, it builds trust because you are telling them that you do care. 


As you ask for more information, don't hesitate to repeat what you've heard them say. You will affirm they've been heard, and you'll gain clarity on what to do next. With the right information, you can direct them to the best resources. You might even discover that there is nothing else to do because all the person wanted was a safe space to vent. Using phrases like, "I hear that you're feeling overwhelmed, is that correct?" helps in acknowledging their feelings.

Learning how to empathize with others does take practice. It might seem like a lot of work, but in the end, people will trust you more. So, the next time a person comes to you with a wave of emotion, complaint, or constructive feedback, thank them, ask them for more, and acknowledge they've been heard.

Looking for more ways to handle conflict and difficult situations? Sign up for MYM PREMIUM today! Click HERE for more.


Similar posts

Get notified on blog posts, updates and all things MYM

Be the first to know about new happenings from Marathon Youth Ministry Inc, from blog posts, to webinars and professional development opportunities.