“Words, Words, Words” wrote Shakespeare in his play Hamlet.
People say that “a problem shared is a problem halved” or “confession is good for the soul” the act in physically saying something to another human being is I believe deeply spiritual, and an hour and a privilege that they have chosen to share something of worth and value with you, call it a precious gift, an invitation into their life.
Yet in our world we see this invitations to listened drowned out by a noisy world, the endless drone of the TV, or the tap tap tap of the mobile phone or some other distraction occurring around us.
Social Media buzzes encouraging more talking, and again I wonder is anyone listening.
I believe everyone is talking, and their deepest desire is for someone to care and actually listen to them.
Perhaps this is why people are ending up having massively deep conversations with people on buses and on random encounters because simply no one else will listen.
This morning I talked to three people, all who were telling me stuff about their current situations, they are all situations I can do nothing to help with, but they clearly wanted to tell me.
It made me think of how important it is to listen to people.
To love your neighbour is to listen to them!
Perhaps loving starts with listening?
Perhaps, just being a loving and a listening ear is something we can do that actually is massively missional?
To have something you want to share and no one who will listen I think is the worst type of loneliness.
Just read on facebook (so it must be true!) of this man in Australia who lives by a suicide hotspot and they estimate his conversation with people who are thinking of ending it all has saved 160 lives, over the 50 years he lived there.
Never underestimate the power of listening to people, it can -as this example shows- literally be the difference between life and death.
Yet sometimes we all fail at listening well.
Sociologists tell us that we mostly listen to reply, rather than listen to understand.
St. Francis of Assisi grasped something of this truth when he wrote “O Divine master, grant that I may never seek so much as to be understood as to understand” -in other words, I want to surrender my rights to be being understood in order to understand.
It’s massively counter our natural state where we really want people to “get it” -someone else to understand where we are coming from- as being understood is incredibly freeing and liberating.
When we are listened to, as in really listened to, it energises us, it makes us feel loved and valued, it is a massively affirming action, it is a freeing and liberating experience.
Listening to someone is something we can all do.
And getting better at listening is something we can all learn and improve on.
Listen to people as you yourself would like to be listened to.
We have a God who listens.
We have a God who understands.
A God who rejoices with us, and cries with us.
Perhaps in how we listen we can show the world something of the love of the Father.