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Approachability - Our Loving Guide


Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


On Palm Sunday I drew attention to a virtue that Jesus displayed that aided in his ministry. It is approachability. We may not think of that as a virtue, but approachability is our loving guide. It is God’s light within us drawing people to us. Christ used it, demonstrated it, and wants us to embrace that light.


We do not live in a spiritual vacuum. We interact with people. Through every thought we think, every word we speak, every attitude we hold, we are either driving people away from the Christ within us or drawing them to that spirit of love.


Jesus was approachable, open, and friendly. It was partly the reason he was such a successful teacher. His spiritual teaching would have fallen on deaf ears if he interacted with others inappropriately. If he were a jerk, driven by ego, caught up in himself, would he have had the impact that he’s had on the world?


My answer would be, “No.” He was approachable and accepting of people right where they were.  Jesus rode on a donkey, not a warhorse. He came not to conquer but to serve. His humility and approachability challenges us to examine our own hearts. Are we willing to lay down our pride, our agendas, and our expectations to follow the humble King? Are we willing, in turn, to be approachable enough to allow people to come close to us to share in the love of Jesus Christ?


Being approachable is important because we are the light of the world, and our light will only shine as bright as our faith and love will allow. To shine our lights brighter and extend to the world the grace God has offered us, we must be approachable.


Part of being approachable is being genuine; it is not hiding under the guise of being perfect but knowing that through Christ we are being made perfect. Part of being approachable is being humble enough to pray, to ask for help and healing. It is also praying for others.


Everyone needs prayer, just as we need prayers. Romans 12:5 tells us, “…so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and each member belongs to all the others.”  We have responsibilities to each other.  Our Father expects us to “greet one another,” “edify one another,” “comfort one another,” “submit to one another,” “serve one another,” and “bear one another’s burdens.” The key quality that we must possess for these things to be possible is — we must be approachable.  


We all know people who are always negative, complaining, comparing, whining, and judging.  Those choices of behaviors make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to greet them, edify them, comfort them, or serve them, let alone bear their burdens or submit to them or respect them.


What we have to ask ourselves is, “are my choices of behavior making it difficult for others to respect me, greet me, edify me, or comfort me? Are we approachable, like Christ? Matthew 19:14 tells us: Jesus welcomed children, showing His approachability. Do we not only welcome children of man, but children of God? Are we friendly, kind, positive, confident, welcoming, and open? Can we learn to control our emotions, thoughts, and words so we do not offend and hurt others? Can we approach others first and not expect them to approach us?


Like all of God’s commands, the path to being approachable is written on our hearts. We know how intuitively. It is just more difficult for some than others. One tip is to smile more. Not all the time, that is weird and insincere. But we can try to smile when we meet a new person. Meet their eyes and smile. If they are telling a joke or being amusing – smile. Smiling and making eye contact makes us much more approachable.


Other simple things: we can face the person and uncross our arms or take them out of our pockets. It is ok to have them hang next to us. Constantly being on our phone makes us appear standoffish. Listening to people and taking interest makes us more trustworthy and so they open up to us. Nod occasionally, this shows interest. But avoid a constant bobbing; it looks odd and artificial.   


Connecting with people is about establishing a dialogue with them, give and take. We don’t want to make it all about them only, or us only. We ask questions and share when appropriate. Expect new people to find us and want to talk to us. Expect to be the right and perfect person someone needs. That is how God works through us.


Keep the conversation positive. Rather than saying, “Good grief, it’s going to snow again. I hate the snow, the cold, always having to shovel…” Yeah, not all that approachable. Well maybe once; they’ll approach you once then forget it. Try putting a positive spin on things. “I know is going to snow again, but I enjoy the diversity of weather we have in this area. So much beauty no matter what the changes bring.” Much more approachable. I cannot imagine Jesus hanging out with his friends and complaining all the time.   


In personal relationships, professional and family relationships, approachability is the foundation of trust and respect. It is the guide to new opportunities, new ideas, information, and deeper and meaningful connections. Being approachable is not just about being pleasant and kind; it is about creating an environment where Spirit can flow easily, where communication and sharing abound, and relationships thrive.


Empathy enhances our approachability. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Acknowledging and validating other people’s emotions can bring comfort, build trust, and encourage open communication and flow of ideas. Be present with someone and understand the other person’s point of view. We do not have to agree with them, and neither do we have to express our disagreement. Empathy is about supporting and understanding.     


Empathy is the part of approachability that helps us recognize when someone else has difficulty being approachable. We all want to be recognized, acknowledged, appreciated, approved of, and accepted. But some of us have difficulties reaching out. We may have experienced this ourselves.


Our recognition of this in others helps us approach these folks in an open and friendly manner. Approachability is part of Christ’s mandate to love one another. We can be the one to reach out and say “Hi.” Yes, there is the possibility of being spurned, but it is what God expects from us: to greet each other, to serve each other. We are not mandated to force someone into a conversation or a connection. Our responsibility is to initiate the possibility, just give it a loving nudge.


Approachability is a virtue that promotes connection, understanding, and positive interactions. It is a loving guide as we connect with people and shine our light of love onto every person and situation. God has put us on this earth with gifts and abilities for serving others. It is my prayer that we expand our approachability so that we can more deeply share the gifts and light God has given us.


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