We met up with some friends recently, and, so full of their own concerns and news, they almost forgot to ask how we were. Why worry? Not because of dented pride (I hope), but because listening is at the heart of true meeting and of the avoidance or resolution of conflict. As laos ministers in the workplace, the home and the community, how might we better proceed? Some thoughts from a learner:
First, listening should lead to empathy - “the ability to identify with and understand another person's feelings or difficulties” says the Encarta Dictionary. How does the world look from the other person's point of view? As the North American Indian prayer puts it, “Grant that I may not criticise my neighbour until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”
Secondly, listen to the truth. Finding ways forward in complex situations is not about selling out to others’ off-the-wall ideas or indefensible opinions. If the truth will set us and the other free (John 8:32), love dictates that we seek it (Eph 4:15). The difficulty, of course, is in Pilate's or the philosopher's “What is truth?” At the least we can steer away from untruth, so be sure to …
… listen to yourself. In his very practical epistle, James writes:
What a delightful summary of how to listen and to offer counsel, as well as of the Christian call to be God's reconciler wherever we may be.
A couple of years ago we visited a beautiful but sad island. Cyprus, The Rough Guide (1999) concludes its ‘Historical Framework’ section with the following:
So ask the Holy Spirit to help you to listen to your own heart, and thus your likely bias. Check that the truth that you discern is not simply what you want to be true, for personal gain or personal vindication.
Finally, listen generously. The apostle John wrote: “… and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14b). May we also be gracious listeners as we seek to imitate Jesus in all we do.
Yours in Christ