Tuesday, 12 September 2017 17:18

Listening as a Lifestyle

Written by  Christy Holding, LPC
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Ms. Christy, you just don’t get it.  You don’t understand.”  My client, a feisty, brave and loveable 19-year-old female was telling me about a difficult situation that she had been involved with at work.  And this was her response to me.  The sad part about it is that I thought I was really listening!  Her words were sobering and so I paused for reflection.

  What occurred to me was that in my desire to “help her”,  I also had an agenda for her:  what I thought she “needed” to do.  I so desperately wanted  this young lady to have a good and productive life that I missed out on the opportunity to really hear her, hear her heart, to hear what is important to her and what it is like to daily live her life. When we have an agenda for another person, it keeps us from hearing them, really hearing them. She was right that day when she called me out.  I didn’t understand what her world was like because I thought I had a solution for what she should do.  I missed a great opportunity that day.


This experience was a wake  up call for me.  I mean after all, I am supposed to be a professional listener.  Right?  So what about you?  Maybe you want to brush up on your listening skills along with me.  Professor David Benner says  “a major obstacle to growth in listening abilities is that most us already think we are good listeners.”  Hmm…sounds too  familiar.


In this article, we will look at listening as a lifestyle, not just a set of prescribed listening skills.  The first thing that seems obvious is that in order to really listen we have to be quiet and settle in.  We hear all day long from the time we get up until the time we go to bed.  Very few of us work on cultivating quiet.  Quiet is almost uncomfortable for a lot of us these days, so we keep the noise turned up.  What would happen if we were still and sat in our quiet for even a little while each day?  We might have more peace and a better sense of ourselves, God and the world around us.  We might be quiet long enough to hear the deeper longings of our heart.  What if we listened to our emotions before we preached to them? God is always speaking to us through His spirit, creation, others, and of course through His written word.


We are so concerned with our beliefs, point of view, and rights that we talk over each other, ever growing louder and louder.  Rarely are we willing to show the courage to listen, especially if it is uncomfortable.  Just watch any talk show on TV and this will be displayed for you right in your living room.  No one listening, but everyone talking! 


How about each one of us?  I have often said that one of the hardest  jobs of a parent is to listen to your child when he or she is saying something that you are uncomfortable with or that goes against your own personal beliefs. But parents, be encouraged that your child is talking to you! There are so many other people they could be talking to about this particular issue.  How might you listen in a way that welcomes them to continue to share with you?  Can we, as parents, ask God for the courage to press deeper into the conversation, deeper into the heart of our child to really hear the story underneath the story!  Winston Churchhill said “courage is what takes to stand up and speak and courage is what it takes to listen. “  Let’s be diligent to be courageous parents in this area of our child’s life.


All of creation listens.  Think about it -  the world was created out of chaos when the Lord spoke.  All of creation is as a response to listening to God speak.  The earth and the entirety of creation listens better than most of us.  The Bible repeatedly encourages us to have ears that hear.  Not only do we get to listen to God, but He also listens to us.  That the God of the universe would take the time to listen to us is pretty astounding.  We know that God heard the cries of the slaves in Egypt and He delivered them.  The psalms are full of the Lord hearing our cries for help.  When Jesus was on the earth, He certainly listened and listened well. Because of His intent listening,  He heard “ the story beneath the story” of those He encountered.   The woman at the well is a perfect example.  Jesus listened and He was able to discern that her greatest need was not just water, but to be heard, seen, understood, and forgiven.


The woman at the well represents each one of us.  We go to the “well” to get what we need to make it through a particular day.  Yes, water is necessary, good, and refreshing. We would never argue about that being an essential part of life.  But just like the woman at the well, we need so much more.  Each of us longs and needs to be heard, seen, and known for who we really are.  Then once that happens, we are in a better position to receive the water that is eternal.


So, I have apologized to my client for trying to “shove a cup of water into her hands.” In essence I was saying, “Here, I  know what is best for you, drink this!”  This 19 year old taught me a great lesson that day.  Before we can “take water” from someone, we really need to be heard and seen. She has been gracious, has forgiven me, and now I look forward to listening to her...really listening.


James 1:19  So then my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

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