“Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.” – Dean Jackson
“Truly listening, attentively, and with care, is one of the simplest and most kind gifts we can give anyone.” – John Bruna
“Listen with your heart and you will understand.” – Pocahontas
“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” – Mother Teresa
“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” – Jesus speaking in Matthew 13:9 NIV
Like everyone born into this world, life has its challenges. Mine lately have been filled with hurt, uncertainty, and heartache – some of which seem overwhelming and unmanageable.
I live alone – making challenging times a little harder to bear. The walls in the home I rent cannot speak nor respond – so often when I’m alone venting frustration, seeking advice, or yearning for a compassionate reply, my voice simply bounces off their surface and the echo leaves me feeling empty and insignificant.
But…. God has blessed me with loved ones, friends, and co-workers who have given me a gift so precious they often cannot connect with or truly understand its value. Their gift to me is described in the John Bruna quote above – attentively listening with care. I would be at a loss without them all! May God bless them for their kindness and for honoring others over self.
To be a receiver this week of such a priceless gift has caused me to dwell on the art of listening and its value – not only to others, but to ourselves.
“We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding or with true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.” – Carl Rogers
LISTENING AROUSES OUR SPIRITUAL NATURE
I love how Dean Jackson describes listening as “spirit over ego”. Attentive, empathetic listening requires us to humbly set ourselves and our own agendas aside – loving others in a way that invokes our calling to serve.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2 ESV
Listening in prayer for God’s “gentle whisper” is also a form of setting our own ways and desires aside. So often prayer is filled with one-way requests, wish lists, and longing for our own aspirations to be granted. When we actively listen in prayer, we are giving God’s guidance higher priority, his wisdom greater rank, and his direction larger influence and preference within our lives.
“Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” – Proverbs 3:6 NLT
“The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8 NLT
“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” – 1 Samuel 3:9
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” – Luke 11:28 NKJV
“For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Proverbs 2:6 NIV
BEING MINDFUL OF WHAT WE LISTEN TO
We (myself included) need to become more aware of what has our ear. Too often, I find myself listening indiscriminately to things I should shut out or disregard. I have given inconsiderate critics, negative self-talk, and the loudest voices in the room the most attention. Each of us need to learn not only the value of listening, but the value of what we listen to and its effect on our lives.
The news is filled with vicious contention and social division. Thoughtless critics are more concerned with putting you down so they can rise higher. The greatest hypocrisy is listening to the negative voices inside of us – the negative self-talk that is often filled with emotion and absent of any truth.
Do you contemplate and evaluate what you listen to each day? Can you see how allowing the wrong messages to infiltrate your mind is harmful and unproductive?
There are YouTube videos that are filled with hours of prayer or readings of Scripture. Often, I take my tablet to bed and listen to these programs as I fall asleep. They are a peaceful and comforting way to enter a night’s rest – providing a valuable background for the sub-conscious mind during sleep as well.
Give greater credence to the voice of a loving friend versus the blaring voice of the most popular colleague. Don’t value the voice of self-criticism but the one of self-acceptance and self-love. Turn off the hate-filled, contentious news and actively listen to an opposing viewpoint – trying to see things from a different perspective. This kind of listening is filled with learning my friend!
I hope tonight you think about the value of listening – who you listen to and what you allow yourself to absorb.
I pray you think about who is most in need of a listening ear right now within your life – giving them the gift of kindness – the self-esteem that comes from knowing they are heard, loved, and understood.
I hope you think about your prayer life – how much of it is spent listening for the quiet, gentle whisper of God’s voice versus reciting a list of wants and needs. I pray you listen more for guidance, wisdom, and direction – things God has promised to provide to us if we simply ask with attentive reverence.
Most of all, I pray you connect with the humility of listening – a humility that invites love, learning, and relationship into all you do and all you become.