Recently I have needed some help hearing and this has made me more conscious of listening carefully. I find that a hearing aid helps especially when I am involved in working with a small group at church or in a nursing home. Then different levels of voices come clearer to me. It made me think of the Bible quotation about the importance of really hearing. Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 To hear well we need to have some understanding so with faith, the Bible helps. There we are taught caring and compassion through noting Jesus’ own example.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer stated that the first aid to listening actively is ‘listening with love’. Sometimes as parents we think we know what a child is saying and don’t listen well. I can remember a teenager saying to me, “Oh Mum, you’re not listening to me!” As I look back at what I said in reply, it’s obvious that I needed to listen to her with more loving care. I did not really have enough patience to listen well. Now, as I have got older and life has slowed me down, I am trying to listen fully and allow all the ideas to come out. I found this conji on Dr. Baab’s blog and noted how the writing shows what we need to listen’our ears, eyes, heart and undivided attention.
Since I have been doing pastoral care, I spend more time listening and this often leads to questions that bring out more details from a sick patient or older friend. Once at a Hospice session on listening skills, I tried to listen fully and I found that I wanted to ask short questions such as ,’How long has this been bothering you?’ If we ask the right questions, we will learn more and build trust with another person as we show that care.
I often read good blogs by Dr. Lynne Baab (http://www.lynnebaab.com/blog/holy-listening) who wrote once that active listening requires detective skills. I think a listener needs to be aware of body language; if there is distress, a speaker may twist hands together or have certain facial expressions. I think noting body language is half of listening. She also quotes Henri Noewen and says, “I like Nouwen’s phrase ‘interior stability.’ There’s no doubt in my mind that interior stability or inner peace helps facilitate listening. This is just one of the good points Dr. Baab makes. It points to being at peace with our self so we can give another attention; it reveals humility to listen instead of talk and Dr. Baab says to ‘play the game’ of trying to say less.
Jesus was a consummate listener; he spent much of his ministry in one to one encounters with individuals and small groups. What he said after hearing them was to the point and truthful. He understood what he was about. In ministry as well as in the home, good listening is vital to build good relationships. The only way we can know how to help others is to listen to them.
God listens to our prayers and complaints all the time. If we learn how to listen, we will improve our own prayer time with God and hear His voice. Jesus gave us a counsellor in the Holy Spirit and I can remember a time when I felt I heard a voice telling me to visit a sick woman. I went and 2 days later, she died. The time we has together at the hospital was special. With His help, we will be better listeners and understand others so we can serve their needs with love.
I can highly recommend Rev. Dr. Lynne Baab’s blogs at http://www.lynnebaab.com