Some years back I was given a book by a friend entitled “The Listener.” Over the years I have misplaced the book and, consequently, the author is unknown to me. However, I remember the theme of the book vividly.
The story presented dramatically the need of people to be listened to. So great was the need that a sanctuary of sorts was built to which people could go and talk to “the listener.” Though they never saw the listener, they would go and pour out their souls in the confidence that they were being heard. A ceaseless stream of people moved in and out of the sanctuary for the dire need to have an ear was at last being met.
After reading that story, I determined to be a better listener. Though, regretfully, not always the case, still, I determined to be a better listener.
Simply stated, I cannot over-emphasize the critical nature of listening to the building of authentic relationships. Without the skill of listening, sometimes we are together with people but not always present to them, we are not always with them.
As I said, listening is important, and I’d like to share a few thoughts about why it is important.
First, listening upbuilds. It’s amazing how much people appreciate being listened to or being heard. If we really listen to another person, we are saying to that person, “You are worthwhile. I accept you. You are important to me.”
Writing in his book “If I Were Starting My Family Again,” John M. Drescher shared a story about the time his busy father listened to him as a first-grader. He said he came home frightened by a situation in school. His father’s calmness and concern, demonstrated by his listening to him, relieved his fears. He could no longer remember what the fears were. But he only remembered sharing them and found it true that fears talked about lose their power.
“I was ready to return to school the following day full of courage and confidence.”
No question, that child was uplifted to renewed optimism because he knew he was loved and worthwhile to his dad. His dad listened.
Second, listening heals. A man came up to his minister sharing his problem — in great detail. The man continued on and on. Several times the minister said he tried to jump in and offer some expert advice, but he couldn’t get an opportunity to get in a word. He kept listening and listening, looking all the while for some opening, but it never came. Finally, the fellow finished telling him all about his struggle, and just as the minister was about to give the man his great wisdom, the man let out a big sigh, and stated, ”Boy I feel so much better. God just spoke to me and told me what to do.”
Then the man turned around and walked away.
The minister said he then realized that the man didn’t need his profound wisdom or his practical advice. He just needed his ears to listen.
Most people do not want us to give them advice. They want us to listen to their ideas. If we are willing to listen, we will have laid the foundation of a lasting friendship.
Perhaps there is some real truth behind the old saying that “God gave humankind two ears and one mouth for a purpose.”
Third, listening is the style of Jesus. Personally, I am convinced that the deepest kind of ministry that we can perform is a one-to-one ministry, where we really listen to another person. After all, wasn’t this the style of Jesus? Walk with him down those Galilean roads. What are his most significant encounters? What do you see him doing? He never grabs a person by the arm and gives them a big word for the day. But rather he walks down the road, stops here and there to listen to a person and to share with that person on the level of his or her need. And some of these people were so surprised that he met them where they were that they were made completely whole.
And it all began at the point of listening. Love listens.