How Reyna Aburto changed her approach to people after ‘one of the most awkward moments’ of her life

Reyna Aburto hugs a sister in Guatemala.jpeg
A few simple questions help Reyna Aburto make heart-to-heart connections with others.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Years ago, I was attending a Church activity and sat next to a sister I had not met before. With an honest desire to get to know her, I naively asked, “How many children do you have?” She looked at me, made a long pause, and then replied matter-of-factly, “I have never been married and I do not have any children.”

I felt so embarrassed and remorseful that I simply did not know what else to say. I sat there in silence and in horror, knowing that my words had unintentionally hurt a precious daughter of God and that I had missed an opportunity to make a heart-to-heart connection with her.

This has been one of the most awkward moments in my life, and certainly a hard lesson for me to learn from.

As I listened to “Love Is Spoken Here,” the October 2023 general conference message by Elder Gerrit W. Gong, that difficult experience came back to my mind. My heart was pierced when he said, “The words we use can draw us closer to or distance us from other Christians and friends.”

After that painful experience, I have tried to be more careful with my words. I now have a few questions ready that could help me connect with people in an instant without making any assumptions.

For example, depending on where the interaction is taking place, I may ask questions such as:

  • Where were you raised?
  • Where do you live?
  • How long have you lived around here? 
  • What brought you to this event?

Then, I listen attentively with a genuine desire to get to know them and follow up with another question related to their answer. My follow-up questions might be:

  • If I go to your hometown one day, what places do you recommend visiting?
  • What are good places to eat there?

If they do not ask me any questions in return, I may answer my own question and tell them something about me.

When I do this, I am always amazed to see how easy it is to find common ground with other people. As I put this into practice with a sincere heart and real intent, my words can certainly allow me to draw closer to other Christians and friends, to minister to them as Jesus Christ would, and to help them feel the perfect love that God feels for them.

Elder Gong’s invitation to “always speak with warm and reverent gratitude for God’s work and glory and the merits, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice," was a sweet reminder that my words can be a means for me to glorify my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ, and to bring others closer to Them.

I am grateful for the gift of repentance that allows me to realize that when I have made a mistake, I can ask my Heavenly Father for forgiveness, and draw upon the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to have the strength to become a better person.

I cannot go back to that clumsy moment I had with that sister years ago to change that disastrous and unnecessarily brief interaction, but with Christ’s help, today and tomorrow, I can draw closer to Him and to the people around me in a more loving way.

We are all on this mortal journey together, learning from our mistakes and trying to follow Christ as we strengthen our relationship with Him and with others.

As we hearken to Elder Gong’s invitation to “be understanding and kind as we learn new languages of love together" and make heart-to-heart connections, let us pause and reflect on our words in our daily interactions, and let us try to emulate the Savior’s example, whose words were always lifting others to higher ground.

Words truly matter.

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