If you truly want to show love to someone, learn how to listen to them.
After over fifty years of marriage, I have learned that when my wife has a problem that she wants to tell me about; she does not want me to fix it for her. She wants me to just listen. Still, I can’t resist the urge to fix her. I want to analyze the problem and propose a solution.
Wrong! She wants to share how she feels and just wants me to listen.
Listening is an act of love, it's one of the greatest acts of love that we can give to another person. Statista.com estimates we will spend over $238 billion in 2020 for mental health services in the US alone.
That includes payment to hospitals, psychologists, and psychiatric services, but doesn’t include voluntary services of church and clergy. Ordinary people who are good listeners could reduce or eliminate much of these costs.
We all have a story to tell. This year has been wild, a pandemic, racial unrest, political intrigue, and an overactive hurricane season. Survivors of catastrophic events have a story to tell and need a place where they can share. Survivors of violence, abuse, and danger all have stories to tell and telling is cathartic.
Recently I watched an Internet podcast by a survivor of a recent hurricane as they described the storm and its aftermath. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think about my own experiences of Camile, Katrina, and several other lesser storms.
As I listened, I kept thinking, “I'd love to tell him about my dealing with Katrina.” For a moment I considered sending them a comment with my story. Then I realized what I was doing, yes I had a story, but this was their story to tell and I must give them the courtesy of listening.
I’m sure that survivors of earlier epidemics, when hearing survivors of our recent pandemic share their stories, are anxious to tell their story. Survivors of the Titanic must have been chafing at the bit while listening to the Andrea Doria survivors forty years later telling their stories, and survivors of the Swine Fly pandemic of 2009-20010 which infected over one and a half billion people, want to tell their story while listening to the COVID-19 survivors tell their story.
We don't listen to other people because we are thinking about the story we want to tell them and waiting for the opportunity to jump in when they slow down or pause for a second.
That reminds me of a story I once heard about a man that survived the Johnstown flood on May 31, 1889 which killed over twenty-two hundred people when a dam broke. This survivor always wanted to tell his story of survival, but people kept putting him off. He died seventy-five years later without ever telling his story. When he arrives in heaven, he thinks, “This is heaven I know I can tell my story here.
So he talks to Saint Peter who seems to be in charge and Saint Peter says, “That's wonderful, we have a time where people get to share their stories of bravery and survival and you can tell your story. I'll just check the schedule and plug you in at the next opening.”
Later, Saint Peter comes up to the man and tells him he is on the schedule. “You are on the schedule to tell of your survival in the Johnstown flood. That's the good news.”
The man stared at Peter with a quizzical look on his face and asked, “Good news? Is there bad news? What's the bad news?
Peter responded, “You will share right after Noah tells his story.”
It's so hard to listen to others while we wait to insert our comments. That's why communications has become so garbled in our modern world. We do not seriously listen and that is why we cannot get along. Our minds are too busy thinking about what we want to that we can't hear others. When we cannot hear what they are saying, we misunderstand and jump too often false conclusions. It would be a different world and we would all get along better if we could listen better.
Listening is valuing others. When we listen to others, we give clear evidence that we value what they have to say, and therefore value them.
Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice (NRSV)
James 1:19 So then my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
How we listen and respond
Romans 12:15-17 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.”
Humility sensitizes our spiritual hearing, whereas pride dulls our ability to hear.
Wouldn't it be great if we started a ministry of listening, listening without an agenda, listening without trying to tell our story, can we do this?
I don't know,
but we need to try. The next time your best friend, spouse, child, or parent wants to tell you something, try to listen;
- Listen without thinking about what you're going to say,
- Listen without disagreeing
- Listen without interrupting
- Listen with your mind, listen with your soul, listen with your heart.
- Try to understand what they're saying.
- Try to understand what they're feeling.
- Try to understand them in this way and you will be showing them great love.
You will probably eliminate a lot of arguments and you might learn to love them deeper hand