Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Learning from a Commercial

I saw this on another blog and thought it was a neat example of what the Church should be doing!: Doable Evangelism

The other day, I was sniveling my way (again) through this commercial when I did a mental double-take. As I watched the guy listen to and hug folks who stopped to talk on his couch, I thought: Hey, that’s like Ordinary Attempts!
A few days later, I took a deeper look behind the commercial. Turns out Kleenex ® is running a series of these called Letting it Out in America: The Social Landscape for Expressing Emotions. The series comes complete with a survey exploring “Americans’ perceptions about emoting” which reveals “Americans believe that expressing their emotions is healthy, although few do it often.” So, in order to help folks do more emoting, they’re taking a couch around to different cities, asking some questions to encourage folks to “let it out,” and putting highlights from these sessions into various commercials.
While I find the concept alone rather interesting, I was more intrigued by some particular results of the survey and the comments made by some of the participants. The survey tries to get at what folks think about expressing their emotions, and here are some of the results that caught my eye:
People most often (66% of the time) express emotions with their significant other, followed by friends (45%).
Common vehicles for letting it out include “at work” (33%), and “when writing an e-mail” (30%).
When it comes to outlets for emotional release, men (46%) seek solitude and a third (33%) work out/exercise. Women more often cry (56%) and talk with friends (54%).
Being on a vacation” (32%) and “getting together with close friends” (29%) are two top ways people choose to let it out.
Why do these stand out to me? For one, they highlight places and times folks are likely to share their feelings and problems—and (while it runs the gamut) those generally are familiar or comfortable: home, work, email, places they exercise or vacation, and getting together with friends. It also highlights folks with whom people share their feelings and problems: lovers, friends, and co-workers.
So if that’s the case, I wondered, why would people share their emotions with a stranger on a couch in the middle of a public place? When asked what made them feel safe enough to express their feelings, comments from some of the participants are interesting:
The interviewer was gentle, nice and sincere – I was comfortable because he was sincere.
No one intruded on our particular moment. The interviewer was most precise in his questions, most reassuring in his demeanor and facial expressions, relating well to the interviewees, keeping them safe.
It’s always easier to feel safe in a crowd, and insecure when there are only two people in a room.
The interviewer made us feel safe. He didn’t make us out to be idiots with questions that were too personal.
I felt safe because the two most important beings in my life, my fiancée, Nadette, and my dog, Olive, were beside me . . . . Additionally, I felt that the person who greeted us and who spoke to us was incredibly empathetic and trustworthy, and it was as though I was in an emotionally protected area. Everybody around us during the time on the couch was very supportive as they listened intently, and I felt at ease while in their presence.
. . . the guy whom I was talking to was very approachable and easy to talk to.
It just felt OK to be me, however “me” was in the moment.
While a variety of reasons made people feel comfortable, a single reasons stands out the most: the person they were talking to was sincere and made them feel safe enough to be themselves.
As I contemplated all this, I found a deeper picture beginning to form—one that reminds me of what love looks like and how we show it to others:
Love involves paying attention—everywhere: These survey results and comments remind us that if we really want to be about loving others, we need to pay attention everywhere we go. The places people say they’re most comfortable sharing how they feel and what’s bothering them are all around us; we just need to pay attention.
Love involves providing a safe place: Interestingly, that seems to be more associated with a person rather than a physical place. We all want to feel safe when we’re confessing our feelings—that the person or people we’re confessing to won’t belittle us, dig deeper than we’re willing to go at the moment or reject us. We are most comfortable sharing with others who are “approachable,” “easy to talk to,” “supportive,” “listen intently,” “empathetic,” “interested,” and “reassuring.” In other words, we want to feel cared for and loved.
Love involves asking questions—and really listening to the answers: The interviewer in the commercials asked a variety of questions—some more probing than others: What have you been holding back? What would you say to your mom if she was here? What does love mean to you? What makes you laugh out loud? Questions like these help us not only get to know each other but touch on important parts of life: love, family, struggles, joy, etc. They help us begin to see why we we’re experiencing the emotions we do—and often open avenues for self-examination, confession and even life-change. But the questions are only part of it: to care means really listening to each other.
Love involves sincerity: It’s not just the acts of listening, providing a safe place or paying attention—it also involves why we do it. Jesus isn’t a big proponent of doing; he wants us to be. He’s interested in what comes from the heart. Do we really care about people? Or are we are we doing loving things as good deeds? Both may help others in the long run, but chances are people will see through the second motive.
This last point is one worth thinking about periodically. It calls us back to spending time with Jesus, be it talking with him, mulling over what he teaches and models in the Bible, talking over and confessing our struggles with others or a variety of other ways God’s given us to open ourselves to his life, love and grace. Christians don’t have the corner on love, but I find that when I’m really walking with Jesus, paying attention to and loving others comes a lot more naturally. But then, that makes sense—that’s how he made us to live: to walk in his love and let that love spill out as we go.
So, while this commercial is all part of a venture to help people understand and express their emotions (and yes, sell a product), it also says something about what love looks like and how we love others—and that says something about OAs, because that’s what OAs are: acts of love

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