The first Friday in October is National Body Language Day, giving me a little pastoral nudge to pay attention to how others around me are feeling. I am also reminded that feelings are 55% body language. I think that the feelings expressed in body language is something I will challenge myself to tune into more often and more intentionally.
After all, when I think of my own ways of communicating, I can find so many examples of how my mouth is saying one thing, but my face and my body are expressing something different. Someone asks, “How are you?” I am thinking, “I’m really kind of depressed and frustrated with things.” But I would never say that – maybe they will think I’m weak or pathetic or whiney. And I don’t want to make others feel bad. So I say, “I’m fine.” I might even be able to paste a smile on my face. But if you really looked at my eyes, you might notice the sadness, or the frustration. My shoulders might be a little slumped; My walk a little sluggish; my voice a little less energetic. When I pay attention, there are many clues to how a person might really be feeling, despite what I am hearing them say.
To be truly caring it is important for me to read a person’s body language and adjust my response accordingly. I don’t want someone to think that I just didn’t care enough to hear what they were not saying, or that I was responding to what I wanted to hear from them, because, honestly, it’s easier. To pay attention to these nuances I need to be truly present to a person, in the moment – not distracted, thinking ahead, or seeing only what I want to see. This is also the way for me to be able to see Jesus in each person I meet. And to BE Jesus to a person who may be silently suffering. Truly “Encountering People where they are at,” as Pope Francis challenges us to be, means we show God’s love by being lovingly present, caring and supportive, attentive to the whole person. We got this! We can do this! I know I am going to do my best to pay attention.