Developing Awareness

It was the first day of Seminary School for those who wanted to share their faith with others. The Dean of the Seminary asked each of the students to respond to a short story he was about to read to them. “Listen carefully”, he said. “How you respond to the questions I will ask you at the end of the story will be an indicator of one of the most important traits you will need to develop in your ministry. 1Here’s the story:

  • A woman is lying down
  • A man comes into the room wearing a mask
  • The man cuts open the woman
  • The woman eventually dies.”

“Now here’s what I want you to do. Based upon what you heard, write the headlines that might appear in the local paper.”

The Dean then asked the students to share their headlines. They were all pretty gruesome. Then he said: “I want to change the story by adding one word.” He repeated the story but the second line was now: A man comes into the room wearing a white mask. Now what’s your headline?”

The students then began to realize that the story was about a surgeon who had unfortunately been unable to save the woman’s life.

The Dean gave the students time for the lesson to sink it before he said, “One of the critical traits you will need to develop as a guide to your flock is awareness. That’s not a trait that will be easy to develop but there are some ways you can increase your awareness.

  • Ask another question
  • Delay forming perceptions
  • Explore all possibilities
  • Look and listen for what’s not in sight or said
  • Allow silence to emerge what might otherwise be hidden
  • Be fully attentive at every moment of interactions with others.”


“I have to warn you that awareness is one of a number of traits that we will be addressing. These won’t be things you can learn from a lecture or a book. They are things you will need to develop by doing, by personal reflection, and by building continuously on what you learn.”

“The challenges you will face will be immense, but the purpose that led you to this place at this time will sustain you for the rest of your life. The fact is that you will learn every day.”

*   *   *

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”– Aristotle



1This story is taken from Ask Powerful Questions: Create Conversations That Matter.

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