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Do you listen?

In a noisy world, we do not listen nearly enough. Turn on any political cable news show and what do observe: Unlimited talking heads. No one listens, they just try to say , or yell, their opinion.

There are other ways to listen. How do you listen with your heart? The non-verbals of others can reveal the crosses that people bear. Do we stop and notice? Do we ask? Do we listen?

Jesus, after bearing His cross to his death, models the most appropriate way to listen with the heart, and with His ears. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus walks with two disciples that are grieving the loss of their friend. All that they had hoped Jesus to do and to be ended on that not so good Friday. Or so they thought.

Scripture tells us that Jesus listened to what was on their hearts. He walks with them. After they pour out their hearts, Jesus teaches them. His words matter as he explains scripture. His presence matters more as they can feel his love and his care. This isn’t a preacher going on and on at the pulpit. This is God with God’s creation when they were the most vulnerable.

Look around…Do we not see the vulnerable on our street corners, across our dinner and conference room tables, and at times, in our own mirror?

How do we listen with an open heart?

Here are some tips on what not to do:

  1. Do not say “I know how you feel,” because you really don’t know.
  2. Do not say “There was this time when I experienced….,” because now it is no longer about them as you are making it about you.
  3. Do not say “It will be ok,” because even though it likely will, the person in need is not ok now. It is ok for them to sit in their sorrow, grief, or anger as it is a part of their process to healing.
  4. Do not say “It could be worse,” because right now, it may be more than enough for the person suffering.
  5. Do not feel the pressure to have the answers to “fix’ the situation.

Here is what you can do:

  1. Listen…truly listen.
  2. Allow for silence to occur…and just be a gentle companion on the journey.
  3. Ask “open-ended questions” that can reframe the situation and that gives the person freedom to speak as much, or as little, as possible.
  4. Silently say a prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom to speak when only necessary, and to serve as an instrument of God’s love.
  5. Invite the person into prayer, if they are comfortable. If they aren’t, remember to pray for them later as the power of prayer is greater than you can imagine.

In a divided world, we can create a greater, more peaceful community by being a caring listener. All it takes is a little awareness, time, and sensitivity.

As Henri Nouwen reminds us, “Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking our words more seriously and discovering their true selves.

P.S. Listening this deeply is draining. Find your time to fill your well so you can avoid the pitfalls so you can be the best instrument of God’s peace as possible.