The Sacredness of Listening
I believe in the profound power of listening. As a pastor of 24 years, I have continually relearned and have been amazed by the transforming effect of giving one’s time to hearing the dreams, hopes, fears and conditions of the people in our lives. It has become increasingly clear to me how true the words of Australian-born author Miles Franklin are:
Someone to tell it to is one of the fundamental needs of human beings.
I see this most vividly in the two weekly tele-support calls I moderate for cancer survivors and caregivers. Each caller in both groups is dealing with a threat to life – either to his or her own life or the life of someone they love. But when they can share their fears, express their regrets, convey their circumstances or just tell their story, burdens are lifted, stress is relieved and, at least for a time, healing is achieved.
When each of us finds others who will listen carefully, compassionately and confidentially, we become connected to them, and then are not so alone anymore. As we allow others into the depths of our souls and into the corridors of our minds we often find common ground and realize our thoughts and worries are shared, that we’re not as isolated as we think. As we can explore the more vulnerable aspects of our lives we enable others to accompany us on the journey, and just having company can embolden and empower us immeasurably.
To be listened to actively is a true blessing. Anytime anyone who genuinely cares about our welfare will provide us with a patient spirit and who can receive our spirits without harsh judgment, with openness and with empathy we are given a gift a grace and made better for it. To listen actively is to respond with encouragement. It is to react with thoughtful reflection and always with the best interests of the other in mind. It means we never rehearse our response as others talk. It means we never place our own agenda before someone else’s. Listening can be one of the most difficult things we can ever do. But the gift it is to others is a gift beyond measure and compare.
I am reminded of that each time I listen to those who call each week. Each member of our calls has become a rich and sacred part of my life. When I am invited into their lives it is a privilege of great magnitude, a gift itself of grace. In listening I am made better. In listening I become more forgiving, more understanding and more compassionate.
It only helps me to be a better husband to my wife Kathy, a breast cancer survivor herself and to everyone else who is part of and who comes into my life.
Listening is a profound gift to those who speak and those who hear. This I deeply believe.
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