I’m referring to a cognitive change that comes from intentional listening and an openness to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Over the last ten years, I’ve become “good” at listening to teenagers and their parents when they speak to me. Unfortunately, this can mean listening for key words and responding with key words, words that I have fashioned over time to be helpful to others. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but I can tell when it as happened as soon as the person it has happened to walks away from me.
I get a sense of emptiness and a sometimes even feel ashamed because I’m not sure if I was ever truly present in the conversation that just took place. As she (or he, or they) speak with me my mind can swirl in tangents. Thoughts of the light board having problems, the parent who is waiting for me in the foyer, and my children who haven’t seen me yet today.
The way back.
In the fall, during National Youth Worker’s Convention, I led a seminar titled, “I made my girlfriend cry: Listening to the burdens of middle schoolers.” I wanted to develop the seminar because I noticed our students were really communicating a lot when we gave them opportunities to share how they are doing. If I asked a pointed and sometimes personal question, most are always willing to write down whatever it is that I’ve asked them to share. The collection of their voices and hearts always brings me to a place of empathy and compassion. It opens my eyes again to their specific needs and reminds me of the very special role of influence we have in their lives.
As I was leading the seminar, I was reminded that it’s not only in the creative ways we reach out that help us to listen better, but also in actually listening better.
This year, I’ve tried to be more present when people talk to me. I’ve gone back to the basics of listening with my eyes, ears, and body language. When I feel myself glazing over–for whatever reason–I’ve already prayed for God to help me notice quickly and find my way back into the conversation.
Occasionally, I’m reminded by others who love me and know me well that I need to come back to the planet. I appreciate those honest and life giving voices!
Then there is the Word of God who calls my heart out of hibernation, giving me new eyes and ears daily.
Today–I’m reminded that we are to love each other with genuine affection–taking delight in it! To listen with genuine care can really change the course someones day.
Romans 12:10 NLT
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
1 John 3:11 NLT
This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
A post on a leadership blog I read this morning reverberated the echo: “Listen with your heart. Be aware of how much you’re talking.”
It’s really cool that God is working in us and through us, moment by moment. I hope that others will be able to say of me that I listened and listened well.