I’m not sure if is because I have a deep and insatiable desire to be heard.
Or if it’s because I know at my core that I’ve not been so good at it and would like to be better.
Maybe…probably, it’s both.
And I wonder about Adam and Eve? What went wrong? What if, Adam, when presented with the fruit, could have taken Eve’s request in at a different level, listening and seeing past her curiosity to an unhealthy desire for autonomy, would he have been able to walk her through the temptation and away from it? I have no idea.
But it’s possible.
And I wonder what could change if I was able to listen in a less distracted way.
An essay, written by Brenda Ueland, was placed on the music stand next to my announcement sheet last weekend. There was also a copy placed in no-windows jeep that I noticed after leaving church. My first reaction was, “hmm, someone must think I’m a cruddy listener.”
My second reaction was, maybe this was so important to someone that they wanted to make sure we would read it without reading into it. If that makes any sense. Either way, my curiosity was peaked and I read a very moving treatise to humanity on the gifted and great role of listening.
One of my best friends met with me over three years ago at Mitchell’s coffee house. We were just getting started in our friendship. She tried to connect over the phone, text, but at the time I hadn’t developed many good habits for returning calls and texts. When we sat down I discovered as we talked face to face that I really would like to become better friends with her and that I was afraid of what that might mean. It meant I would have to be a real friend. Someone who listens and is available and willing to invest. I wanted that so badly but it scared me because everywhere I had lived up to that point was less than a three year period of time. Honestly, I felt burned out by finally breaking through to friendship and then having to say goodbye. So I told her to truth.
“I”m a crappy friend. I’m just bad at it.”
She looked at me and said, “it’s ok, I understand”.
And for three years she re-introduced me to friendship. I remember seeing this happen when we lived in Texas. Another good friend began modeling what it meant to love someone and care for them over your own needs, schedule, desires, and ambitions. I was incredibly sad to move away from her and her family. She had started the process, the transformation that I really needed to have, and then we moved. I sort of rolled over and gave in to friendship gravity. Oh well…it is what it is, I stink at life (WRONG!).
My new Florida friend didn’t relent. She didn’t give up. She taught me how to listen. She is such a good listener. A true listener, like the essay says, is much more beloved and magnetic than the talker. It’s the most effective form of friendship and ministry.
Back to the essay.
I read it.
Then re-read it.
Then I tried to listen to every person in my office, at the gym, in my home, with this posture “now, what is happening now, my friend is talking and I am quiet.”
I’ve been working on it.
This morning as I listened to another good friend share some of what’s going on in her life I felt that temptation to help, give advice, word picture, strategize, look into the future, encourage…none of these things are bad things, and I know there is a time and a place for all of those things but I really want to listen better. So mid conversation I arrested myself.
Listening can work a small miracle.
“For just as the tragedy of parents and children is not listening, so it is of husbands and wives (friends and ministry partners, students and co-workers). If they disagree they begin to shout louder and louder – if not actually, at least inwardly -hanging fiercely and deafly onto their own ideas, instead of listening and becoming quieter and more comprehending.”
If only we could all take one small step to becoming quieter and more comprehending.
As I type, a teenager is coming into my office.
Listening can work a small miracle.
A co-worker was in my office yesterday. I felt like I had nothing to give, but to listen.
And I feel it did that, worked a small miracle that none of my planning and thinking and talking could have produced.
Shhhh….Listening can work a small miracle.
I want to be a better listener and a better communicator. But I believe that the communicating part hinges on the listening and can’t exist without it.
My favorite Psalm, now that I think about it, is this very prayer. For a quiet soul, a quiet soul to receive and give love born out of hope.