Learning to Listen to each other..

I sat in a room full of people who love God the other day and listened to the conversations around me. I'm a talker by nature, I think I came out of the womb babbling, so listening can be hard for me. All around me were stories, people's stories, amazing stories! One story in particular though caught my attention. A woman, new to our little bible study came and sat quietly in the back of the room. She was from the Congo and spoke fluent French and broken English, but in what little English she knew she told us a story so quietly you had to strain to hear her. Her husband was killed in the Congo for political reasons and so she and her daughter were forced to flee. They traveled all around the world looking for safety and finally settled here. She said her faith in God was all that kept her going, and all our jaws dropped. We complain about our lives here, but not one of us had experienced this kind of tribulation. She was inspiring and most of all she was heard. James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry... None of us spoke. None of us could. We learned something that day, something that we couldn't even put into words. And we didn't need to. God admonishes us over and over again to watch our mouths and grow our ears. In a world where sound reigns it's often easy to listen to the wrong things. Think about it for a minute. When are you just quiet? Sans ipod, iphone, CD, TV, DVD, or computer. If we could learn how to listen, to truly listen, how different would our lives be? How many untold stories would be heard? How many precious moments with just God would we enjoy? How many more deep and powerful conversations could be had? How much less miscommunication might occur? Listening is such a powerful tool. It's key to having a relationship with God, and to having successful relationships with others. Someone who can listen is truly a gift to be around. I have a friend who I know is always ready and willing to listen and she really hears not just what I'm saying but what goes unsaid. That kind of person is precious and beautiful. So how do we learn to listen? Here are just a couple of tips that have helped me.

  • Words do not convey everything. If you merely listen to the words, you're missing out. People say much more with their body language, eye movements, and other non verbal cues. It's important to hear whats both being said, and what's left unsaid. This is why eye contact is so crucial.

  • Most people don't want advice. If you think they do, you're clearly more enamored with the sound of your own voice than with the person in front of you. Sometimes those who come to talk simply want to be heard. In a world that does not really value the individual, being simply heard is something precious and rare. Listening is a gift you give the other person.

Every story matters, and if we just learned to listen to each other what a different world, what a different church we'd create.

The first duty of love is to listen.~Paul Tillich


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