Devotion 104

LISTENING IS LOVING

How many of us really know how to listen properly? Is listening a matter more of skill or more of attitude? The more I listen to people talk and observe how they listen, the more I discern it appears to be both.

What goes through our minds, as we listen to others? For many of us, it seems, we are focused on how closely the talker aligns with our goals, attitudes or philosophy, than we are focused on the content of what is being said. All-too-often, while the other is speaking, we are creating a response, assuming the end of the spoken portion.

So, how do I get to the understanding of listening being loving? It is important to note what is happening, during the speaking-listening engagement. When I speak, I usually open myself to the one who is listening. I have learned to do this over the years, as I functioned as a teacher, at all levels. Having a great desire to be authentic in the classroom, I decided to speak authentically both to my students and their parents. In essence, I made myself vulnerable to them.

At first this was scary. I was trusting the other person to accept what I was saying at face value and to not judge me. Although I had no control over what the hearer heard and interpreted from my speaking, that trust paid off, for the most part, and gained me trust by most. I tried hard not to allow lack of trust influence me, which was really hard for me, as I tend to internalize everything coming at me. For the most part, though, I was able to avoid ‘too much’ negative influence from affecting me.

By taking this stance in my speaking with others, I also had to consider how I listened to them. This is where I needed help. I have always enjoyed hearty discussions, debates and, sometimes, arguments. So, when I listened to others, I was also thinking about my response to their points; as a result, I often missed important issues they raised. In my attempt to be an authentic listener, then, I began to research authentic listening. I learned I needed to train my heart to listen; that is, I needed to focus my full attention onto what the speaker was saying and hear with my whole being, not just my ears. One of the first issues I dealt with was Listening is not a passive process, it is very active.

To be listening actively means to listen with all our senses. We can tell a good deal about how important the topic is by looking at the speaker’s eyes, the set of face and other aspects. We can hear much more by focusing on the speaker’s tone of voice, the rapidity of speech and inflection. Other body language will provide cues to us about the value the speaker has about what is being said. Paying attention to these, as well as the content of the words, will give us a clearer understanding of the speaker’s message.

We receive this message very clearly from God’s Word, as found in James 1:18,19 – Having made his decision, he gave birth to us through a Word that can be relied upon, in order that we should be a kind of firstfruits of all that he created. Therefore, my dear brothers, let every person be quick to listen but slow to speak, slow to get angry. In this passage, there is the understanding listening is an active process; as such, our main focus in interacting with others is to listen attentively to everything they say to us. This is our acting as the firstfruits of all He has created.

While the speaker is engaging with us, s/he is subconsciously watching to see how engaged we with the message. Active listening requires us to attend to the speakers, encouraging them with subtle cues, such a verbalization (ummm, yes, uhuh, etc.), nodding at important moments, indicating we are engaged, and looking attentively at them, always being mindful of cultural norms and values.

This message of attentive listening is clearly evident in Adonai Yeshua’s (the Lord Jesus’) word to us, in Revelation 3:20 – Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. He desires us to be attentive to His voice, to be tuned to Its cadence, Its rhythm. When He speaks to us, at the moment of our justification, are we open to hearing His voice? Do we even know He is calling us to open our hearts to Him and invite Him into our lives?

How does all of this help us with the aspect of listening being loving. I must confess I heard this phrase while watching the movie, “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. This movie clearly drew the connection between listening to others authentically and the love we show them. I also recognized Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus, believed in this axiom. Take for example, His teaching, I am giving you a new command: that you keep on loving each other. In the same way that I have loved you, you are also to keep on loving each other, found in John 13:34. Clearly, listening is a powerful component of loving each other.

Then we find comments about listening in the Book of Proverbs. For example, in Proverbs 12:15, we find, Fools suppose their way is straight, but the wise pay attention to advice. Then we learn how important it is to listen to the Word of Yahveh, our Beloved God, as He speaks in Malachi 2:2 – If you won’t listen, if you won’t pay attention to honoring my name,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot, “then I will send the curse on you; I will turn your blessings into curses. We know that Yahveh is love and that love radiates to all of us, even those who do not accept it. When we do accept His love, then we also accept His blessings and the responsibility to listen to His Word. This, then, leads us to the understanding of listening being transactional.

Coincidentally, loving is also transactional. While love does not have to be received, in order for it to be given, it will not last long if it is ignored. In much the same way, speaking that is not openly heard, will soon cease. I’m sure many of us have experienced this.

Beloved, do you listen actively to others, who are speaking to you? Do you agree that Listening is Loving?

CONSIDER: How actively do you listen to those speaking with you? Do you indicate to them that what they are saying is important? Are you validating their existence, through your listening?

ACT: If you wish to know more about active listening, I urge you to google the phrase on your browser and/or loan a book on active listening from your local library.

PRAY: Beloved Abba, I ask you to help my heart be more open to those who speak to me; I pray you help me be more attentive and more openly appreciative of what is being said, as this shows my sincere interest and desire to hear what the other is saying to me. In Your Beloved Name I pray.

May the God of Avraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you richly.