Just Listen .....

 

“Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.”                             

 Sue Patton Thoele

"Do you see what I'm saying?" 

"Yes, Sheila … I feel you." 

My friend's daughter overheard this part of a conversation between her mother and I.   Her puzzled expression made me instantly smile because I could already see the question forming and the wheels turning in her five year old brain ...... 

"Auntie Sheila ….. how come you ask my Mama if she sees what you're saying?  How can you see the words if you're just saying them? 

And Mama …. why did you say you feel Auntie Sheila, what do her words feel like?" 

I glanced at my friend with a Let me answer this look and she laughed and nodded. 

 "Your mama and I are friends and we know each other very well.  Remember when you told me today about what you learned in class about the five senses?  When I talk to her, she did more than just hear what I was saying. 

Your mama  listened to how I said it, she watched my expressions as I talked and felt my heart.  Your mom and I are so close that we have the magical ability to even hear what we're saying even if we don't say it out loud.  

My classmate shared this listening card with me. #Goals

My classmate shared this listening card with me. #Goals

Your mom pays complete attention to me and when I finished, I asked her if she could see and understand all that I was sharing.  Your mother completely understood me in every sense of the word and that's why she said that she felt me.... she felt not just my words, but my heart and she saw the real me.  When you hear me, you just focus on the words, but when you listen, you focus on all of me.  Your mom paid complete attention to all of me when I talked and that made a difference." 

 

She sat for a moment and then replied, "So when you listen, you gotta use all the senses." 

She was quiet for a moment, got up and hugged me and whispered, "Auntie Sheila, I see what you're saying and I feel you, too." 

The Chinese Symbol for listening involves multiple senses.  My friend's daugher already knew that. :-)

The Chinese Symbol for listening involves multiple senses.  My friend's daugher already knew that. :-)

"... you gotta use all the senses."  Her words resonated with me.  Listening engages the senses of hearing, sight and touch.  It is an intentional practice and process. It is ministry.

 

The ministry of listening … I feel that I am an above average listener. People within my circle share that is one of my  attributes.  I try to be present with people and not automatically offer advice, even if they request it.  When you know the power and confirmation of having someone listen to you, it makes you want to be a better listener. 

 
 
‘The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s Word, but also lends us God’s ear. We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. " Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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When we don't listen, it can diminish the speaker, but the ministry of true listening allows the speaker to feel that their voice matters and that they exist. 

 

Poor listening diminishes the other person, while good listening affirms their voice, existence and who they are.

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For the last few months, I have been volunteering as a chaplain.  This has brought me into a deeper level of the ministry of listening.  It calls me into places where you are listening and being present for people in the midst of the most traumatic and painful moments of their lives. It calls for presence and not for answers or quick fixes. Because, in this context, there are no answers or quick fixes.  It has been humbling and one of the most significant learning experiences in my life. This has taught me, more than any other facet of ministry so far, the power and need for the ministry of listening and presence. If I am truly listening, then I am completly present.

 

My Vision Board reminds to extend the Ministry of Listening to myself as well as others. 

My Vision Board reminds to extend the Ministry of Listening to myself as well as others. 

This ministry of listening is impacting me deeply because it is focusing not only on listening to others.  It's calling me to listen to myself and realize that sometimes I'm not listening to myself.  I'm in this place which calls me to listen to my words and reflect on my interactions with patients, family and staff.  Listening and reflecting on my words, is calling me me to excavate the layers. The meaning behind the words or even realize that I need to change my own narrative.  The ministry of listening is external and internal. It's been painful but powerful, because I constantly have to reflect back on what I say and do.  The Ministry of Listening begins with the ministry of  listening to myself.

Device Free – Enjoy a meal or gathering without phones. Take time to engage in conversation and listen without distractions  .

Device Free – Enjoy a meal or gathering without phones. Take time to engage in conversation and listen without distractions.

Just listen to others ….  This includes all of your physical, emotional and spiritual senses.  A coworker shared that when we listen we need to use our spiritual ears to help us discern the heart and what lies behind the words. 

Just listen …. Listening means letting go of our own pre-conceived narrative about someone.  These pre-conceptions can block us from truly listening to someone. 

I facilitated a multi-generational dialogue. The rules were that each generation could share their insights and perspective, but the other generations had to listen, not interject or interrupt. They had to focus and listen with intention. When the youth were presenting, one of them completely broke down. The moment of being in a space where the group was acknowledging and listening to her words, heart and spirit was so moving for her. She shared this was the first time she had ever been in the presence of a group of adults where she felt she was heard. She felt like she mattered.  The ministry of listening made her feel whole and her statement deeply moved and shifted the perspective of those of us who were listening.  The nministry of listening is transformative for both the speaker and the listener.

Just listen to yourself ….. poor self-listening diminishes you, but great listening builds you up and acknowledges your voice. 

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Just listen to yourself ….. poor self-listening diminishes you, but great listening builds you up and acknowledges your voice. 

Do you see what I'm saying? 

I feel you. 

Prayer:  Loving and Listening God, teach us to listen intently for words spoken and unspoken.  Listening deeply can heal hearts and spirits that are broken.  Amen

Learning to Listen ,

Sheila P. Spencer