The Art of Listening

By Amy Maples

listeningI will be the first to tell you that I am a chronic interrupter.  I have always been this way.  I have a habit of passionately getting involved in a conversation and often find myself excitedly anticipating a friend’s next line by jumping in to express it for her.

Friend: “That novel you let me borrow is crazy!  It’s just…”

Me: “…brilliant, I know!!!  I knew you’d love it!”

Friend: “Well, no actually.  What I was going to say is that …”

Me: “…OH!  You mean you hate it!”

Friend: “Uh, no.”

Me: “Oh.  Well, maybe you should just tell me.”

Friend: “Uh, okay…I was going to say I just haven’t made it past the 1st chapter.”

It’s funny to think of how many times I have made a fool of myself by interjecting my predictions of what a friend is going to say next.  This is all in good fun with dear friends about light-hearted topics.  But what about when a loved one needs your care as they pour out grief to you?

Imagine your most recent trial.  Now also imagine sitting down with a dear friend to express your pain and to request her strength and guidance.  It would be very difficult if the friend only took a minute to hear your story and then proceeded to instruct you based on her very limited understanding of your situation.  I know I have done this.  I remember walking away from a conversation with a friend that was desperate for encouragement in regards to a dating relationship that wasn’t going so well.  I listened, got a brief sketch of the details, and proceeded to wax eloquent about the course of action I thought she should take.  I cannot imagine I was very helpful!  I really cannot imagine she felt a whole lot of love.  Afterwards, I immediately knew I had not really taken the time to truly hear her heart first and called her back and apologized for running my yapper!  Jesus heart for the crowds of people surrounding him is such a beautiful picture of love that we can learn from.  Matthew 9:36 says that as soon as he saw them “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless…”

If you are tempted right now to say “I stink!  That’s me!  I love to hear myself talk and never listen!” then please allow me to run my yapper one more time!  If you are a Christian, God looks at you and sees JESUS!!  (Romans 4:4-5 & Colossians 3:3-4)  He sees perfection, then.  He sees a perfect listener and perfect friend.  Amazing.  And someday, when we are taken with him to a paradise that is so much grander than anything we could ever imagine in our wildest dreams, we will see his perfection.  And we will be floored when we see that that perfection is what Jesus exchanged for our humanity so that he could save us … because he loves you and me no matter what and proved it by dying on the cross for us.  Don’t be a better friend because you feel you need to.  You don’t.  Jesus has done it all.  So let’s go forward in love towards others because we are so very loved by God!

Let’s consider how we as women might be better listeners and advice-givers:

  1.  Be compassionate.  We truly have no clue what people are going through.  We may think we know and we may think it is not a big deal.  But when someone is hurting, they need our compassion even when we don’t fully understand.  Jesus’ heart broke with compassion for the crowds of people who needed him so desperately.
  2. Ask lots of questions.  They need to know we care and want to get in their heads and try to see what it’s like to experience what they’ve experienced.
  3. Be slow to speak. Do not be too quick to offer advice.  Yes, we need each other’s advice.  We are all different parts of the body and need each other so the body can function.  But if you’re unsure if your advice is helpful, especially if not asked, wait and pray and share later.  I have a close friend who asks me, “Can I share something with you?”  What a sweet way to meekly offer encouragement—by asking if it’s welcome!
  4. Be careful around “hot topics.”  That, by no means, is to be understood as not mentioning them at all. Examples are women staying home with children vs. joining the workforce, how our children are educated, different theological viewpoints, etc.  It’s vital to remember with some of these grey areas that God may have given us a strong opinion on an issue because that’s what he desires to do in our life—not necessarily in the lives of every other Christian.  He may be speaking to someone else very differently and they may actually be sinning by following you rather than how God is leading them.
  5. Pray for them—as you’re doing dishes, making breakfast, or better yet in focused alone-with-God prayer time!  This will move mountains in their life!  And God will birth in you a breath-taking compassion for those around you.  Prayer for others really does transform the one praying!
  6. Think about timing. In the middle of a heart-wrenching struggle, I find the most helpful thing to do is provide lots of encouragement and compassion and hugs.  My friend may be contributing to their problem. Perhaps they are really anxious and worried. It’s good to be watchful about the timing on giving advice. Timing is important.  Even if your advice is true it doesn’t mean it should be shared the moment it enters your mind; which brings me to my last piece of advice.
  7. You may be wrong. Just because something enters your mind doesn’t mean it’s true!  You might think you have someone figured out, but it’s possible you could be wrong.   This is why it’s important to show your “gentle-lady” side and share meekly or just not at all.

 

We have something the world doesn’t.  We have relationships that can flourish and grow even through hard things.  If you have a friend that has hurt you because they didn’t listen well, bring this grief to the Lord and lay it as his feet.  Ask him to give you the power to forgive and choose to love that person the way Jesus loves you!  There is powerful hope for every single aspect of our lives through Jesus.  And if you are the bad listener, remember Jesus and receive his forgiveness and grace as you learn the art of listening.

 

(photo credit: Ambro, freedigitalphoto.net)
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One Comment to “The Art of Listening”

  1. […] By Amy Maples. listening I will be the first to tell you that I am a chronic interrupter . I have always been this way. I have a habit of passionately getting involved in …www.wogmagazine.com/2012/04/theartoflistening/ […]