What can we learn from Jesus about making people feel valued? Plenty—especially from the way he treated a woman too shy to speak to him.
Jesus was on his way to heal the daughter of an important man, Jairus. Jairus was a synagogue ruler, while this woman hiding in the crowd hadn’t been to synagogue in twelve years. She couldn’t—not with this bleeding problem that made her “unclean.” Any place she sat became unclean too, so she didn’t get out much.
She couldn’t get up the nerve to talk to Jesus. After all, who would be interested in a penniless woman who wasn’t the daughter of anyone special?
The crowd pressed all around him. She really shouldn’t have been there in her state, but she longed for healing. She’d been ostracized for so long. She needn’t bother him, after all: she’d just slip in from behind, touch his cloak—that’s all it would take, she was sure—and then disappear among the multitude. No one would notice.
But someone did.
Jesus felt power going out of him and knew someone had touched him and been healed, someone who wouldn’t venture to ask for healing. But healing her physically wasn’t enough. He turned and called out, “Who touched my clothes?”
She didn’t answer. Perhaps she froze in confusion, thoughts racing through her mind. Will he be angry I touched him when I’m unclean? Jairus and all the important people must be furious at this delay! What will everyone think if I speak up?
Not hearing an immediate answer, Jesus’ disciples wanted to move on. But Jesus didn’t. He kept looking around.
She finally spoke up, shaking with fear. She may have stumbled over her words, felt the warmth of a blush on her face, winced as it turned to red-hot burning.
Jesus listened to the whole story: she had bled for twelve long years and spent all her money on doctors, but only gotten worse. When she heard Jesus was near, she thought if she could just touch his clothes, she could be free without bothering him. She had touched his cloak and felt healed immediately.
Jesus gave her his full attention, as if he thought her words important. This made the crowds acknowledge her and give her their full attention too. Everyone is looking at me! She glanced up and saw gentle eyes, eyes that bade her talk. And a kind smile that told her all was well. She locked her eyes on his.
After Jesus listened, he called her “daughter”! Yes, “daughter.” She who hadn’t been the daughter of someone important like a synagogue ruler, was now being called daughter by this great man. What did it mean?
He said her faith had healed her and to go in peace. So he wasn’t mad. No, he was pleased she had approached him. She, a woman of no consequence who dared but touch his garment unnoticed, had been noticed, healed, and freed.
She smiled shyly and looked around. She saw compassion in the faces of tenderhearted people. She hadn’t expected this.
“Be freed from your suffering,” he said. Yes, she was free. She knew it! Free not just from sickness, but from feeling alone, forgotten, and inconsequential.
If you’re not shy:
- You can look around—like Jesus did—to find that man standing alone at church and the woman sitting quietly at a gathering.
- Draw others out and listen to their stories.
- Let others know they’re family and they’re valued.
If you’re shy:
- Take heart from Jesus’ tenderness towards the timid woman.
- The thoughtful statements of the more quiet are often insightful, so go ahead, take courage, and speak.
- Know that shyness makes you no less valuable: a family needs members with all kinds of gifts, including the quiet gifts.
- Go in peace, for you matter greatly to Jesus.
If you’re a small group leader:
- You can imitate Jesus by looking around for the quiet people who take a little longer to speak up and encouraging them with a smile.
- Help the talkative people not rush ahead when there’s a pause; show you’re not afraid of silence so they won’t be either.
- Give those sharing your full attention—that shows you value both them and what they have to say; it also encourages others to do the same.
- Treat all like family—after all, that’s what they are.
- When people share something self-disclosing, let them know later privately how appreciative you are and how their courage will help others—it will give them peace and free them from the second guessing that all but the most self-assured feel.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’“ But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” ~Mark 5:30-34