How to Really Surprise People

Every day you have the ability and opportunity to surprise someone. 

Photo courtesy of amenic181 |
Photo courtesy of amenic181 |

This past week I had the privilege of attending the Biblical Counseling Training Conference in Lafayette, Indiana. I viewed this as a tool-belt-equipping week and wow – was it ever. Though I came away with new tools in helping those who are walking through troubled times, I found myself being hit in areas that needed changing in my own life.

My post for today comes out of an evening session that I attended last week with Dr. David Powlison who is considered to be a guru within the counseling training world. The ideas I heard were not new, but packaged in a way that were profound to me.

Leadership is awesome in some ways and very daunting in others, but bottom line, I am attracted to leadership primarily because of one word: influence. Not a looking down on someone because of my position or authority, not wielding the “leadership scepter” so people can see my power. No, rather influence that moves someone forward to a better state of mind, a better positioning, a better glimpse of their own gifts, abilities, and talents. A better view of God.

And if I am ever in leadership for a reason other than influence, then I probably need to step aside for the time being until that is my motive.

As I listened last Thursday evening, what I heard began to really take shape in my mind and so I “pay it forward” so that you also may benefit.

Part of influence is having my sensors in tune with the needs of other people. There are many hurting people around us and those who are without hope. They are enduring each day, hoping and praying that someone, some ONE, will intersect their path and offer a solution to whatever is troubling them.

They need light. They need a way.

Are you the type of leader that hurting people are attracted to? Do they feel safe around you even when they are vulnerable?

Do you want to surprise people as a leader? Do you want to throw them off in a good way that leaves a positive and lasting impression? Then read over these seven questions that they may ask of you in their own mind.

Then take inventory in your own life to see to what extent these answers exist for you as a leader.

Can you help me?

This is a question people will ask about you. Maybe not out loud but certainly within. They want to know, “Can you help me?” But you must be able to “get in the pit” with them and not just act like a passerby.

And so, do you want to surprise people? You will surprise people if you are genuinely humble.

Humility attracts. Humility says, “We are more alike than different.” As I have heard before, I am simply animated dust created to be dependent.

Can I trust you?

People are not going to open up their sordid life to you if they believe their story is your next Facebook post. Hurting people want you to step into their life, but only if they sense you are truly interested.

Do you want to surprise people? You will surprise people if you truly care. That their needs are your needs and their hurts are your hurts.

Will you tell me just what I want to hear?

Hurting people typically do not just want to have another sugar-coated response come their way. They have probably already heard it. But if you exhibit humility and truly care, many will allow you to speak truth into their lives, even when it removes the emotional band-aid and exposes the wounds of their heart.

Do you want to surprise people? You will surprise people if you are honest with them.

Ask good questions. Jesus did. “Where is your treasure? What are you living for?”

Give people a reason to be open and honest with you.

And don’t forget. Anything spoken without love has the same effect as a loud gong or clanging symbols. In other words, annoying and irritating. They are great in a marching band, but a horrible framework for our speech. See I Corinthians 13 for a good word of truth on that subject as well as Ephesians 4:15 – “speaking the truth in love….”

Do you “get” me?

If I do have a problem, will you seek to understand it? Or will you just throw another “truth dart” my way and then get off to your next project?

Hurting people just want to be understood, that you get them and what they are going through. But it takes having discernment. And discernment comes through listening.

Active and engaged listening.

Do you want to surprise people? You will surprise people if you really listen to their story and consider what you are hearing.

Then, and only then, do you have the right to respond.

Will you take what I say to heart?

Do you have troubling listening to people’s stories because you are already thinking about what grand narrative you are going to say next. Sadly, I do at times.

Taking what people say to heart means you enter in their pain and offer them hope where capital “T” truth is found.

Do you want to surprise people? You will surprise people when you show them grace. When you could step on their neck, you show grace. When you could [fill in the blank], you show grace.

After all, that is what Jesus showed to me in my broken and messed up life.

You show grace when every commendation is true and genuine. And you show grace when every criticism is constructive.

Will you act on what we talked about?

People sometimes just want a listening ear, but many times they are looking for what they should do next. Not next week, not next month.

Right now.

Do you want to surprise people? You will surprise people if you give them practical steps for how to get them from where they are to where they want to be.

Small, logical, practical steps.

Will you persevere?

This world is fully of temporary. What hurting people need many times is a sense of permanency with people, that someone, some ONE, will stick around long enough to see them to some sort of conclusion, even in their mess.

Do you want to surprise people? You will surprise people if you communicate that they must be patient – it is a lifelong process. Change will not happen in a day, but God does change people. He works in days, weeks, months, and years. But He does work.

Grace has a one day shelf life. Tomorrow’s grace will be available…tomorrow.

I hope these are helpful in reminding why we influence. As I have heard before, I am simply one hungry beggar showing another hungry beggar where to get bread.

That Bread…of life.



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