Stop and Listen

This quote was in my daily devotional reading, and it certainly rings true. I wish I had come across it last month, when our theme was “challenging times.”

“Do we not sometimes feel, in trial or perplexity, that others might help us if they would only stop and listen? But they will not, and in their constant hurry we know it is little use to speak. Let us note the lesson for ourselves, and give what we ask, — leisure to hear, attentive, concentrated, not divided, –calm, patient consideration. It may be our busy work, as we think, for the Master, which so overcrowds our lives that we have not time for this ‘standing still.’ Sad eyes meet ours, but we cannot stay to read their story. Some look to us for help in battles which we fought long ago, but we cannot turn aside to see how it fares with them in the strife, or to whisper the secret of victory. But He would have said, even though some plans of our own for His service were put aside, ‘Ye have done it unto Me.'”

H. Bowman

Graceful Listening

“There is a grace of kind listening, as well as a grace of kind speaking.  Some men listen with an abstracted air, which shows that their thoughts are elsewhere.  Or they seem to listen, but by wide answers and irrelevant questions show that they have been occupied with their own thoughts, as being more interesting, at least in their own estimation, than what you have been saying.  Some interrupt, and will not hear you to the end.  Some hear you to the end, and the forthwith begin to talk to you about a similar experience which has befallen themselves, making your case only an illustration of their own.  Some, meaning to be kind, listen with such a determined, lively, violent attention, that you are at once made uncomfortable, and the charm of the conversation is at an end.  Many persons, whose manners will stand the test of speaking, break down under the trial of listening.  But all these things should be brought under the influences of religion.

Frederick Wm. Faber

Question for the day:  Do you listen gracefully?

For more on listening see these posts:

Loving by Listening

Joan’s Pet Peeve #2– Is Anybody Listening?

Listening to God before We Speak for Him

 

Apathy, Sympathy or Empathy?

I’m currently reading a book about kindness (a fruit of the Spirit) which I’ll review tomorrow.  Today, however, I want to talk about one interesting idea that stuck me — there is a difference between sympathy and empathy.  Here’s how the author describes it:

  • Apathy:  I don’t care if others get wet if I stay dry
  • Sympathy:  Here’s an umbrella, hope it helps
  • Empathy:  Standing in the rain, together

Often, as Christians, we show sympathy — which certainly isn’t bad, and sometimes it’s all we are able to do–but we never try to go any deeper.  However, the Bible tells us to:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15

Sounds like empathy, doesn’t it?  Deep empathy requires listening to others so that we can understand what it is they really need.  We normally empathize more easily with people who are like us — people who have led similar lives or hold similar beliefs.  However, we can increase our empathy when we practice.  Here are some ideas:

  • Ask someone to share a favorite tradition from their culture or typical day in the country they are from.
  • Have a cross-cultural potluck.  Talk about what makes each dish a favorite.
  • Read a book about a different culture or with a main character whose race or country is different than your own.
  • Ask someone from a different faith tradition to write down five important ideas about their belief system and you do the same.  Sit down and talk about them.
  • Have a conversation with someone who is much older or much younger than you are.  Listen thoughtfully to their opinions.

Jesus was never apathetic.  He showed sympathy and empathy for many different people — the Samaritan woman, a tax collector, the rich young ruler.  He listened to them;  he spent time with them, and He understood their needs.  Of course, He was God and we are not;  but we are called to imitate Him and be guided by the Spirit.  As Paul said:

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[“1 Corinthians 2:12

Listen to others; listen to the Spirit;  practice empathy.

 

Loving by Listening

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them. —Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

See the source image

Bonhoeffer on Learning to Listen

listenLearning to listen is an important part of all relationships; every Christian should listen to others and to God.

PacificPilgrim

Photo Credit: B Rosen via Compfight cc (https://www.flickr.com/photos/82763263@N00/4255321476/)

The following quote is from the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his essay, Life Together.

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.

So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Many people are looking for an ear that…

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