The Lost Art of Listening
21 Jun 2016
By: Juliandra Durkin
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19
Have you ever had one of those falling dreams that you don’t know if you’re going up or down and you wake up? Or a dream where you’re running away from a bad guy and your feet feel heavy, like you’re running through sludge?
I had a dream like one of these the other night, but instead of falling or running I was screaming for help. My foot was caught in a grate on the sidewalk, it was a crowded city street, but no one heard me call for help. And the louder I called, the faster people walked by and ignored the girl standing still in the middle of it all. To me, I was in great distress, to everyone walking past, I was invisible.
When I woke up, I realized how true that dream is to some things in life I’ve been going through recently.
About three weeks ago, a number of issues came up at work, with family, and in my personal life that I tried to walk through and figure out on my own. But the layers of “stuff”- emotional ups and downs to go along with the relational ups and downs became too much, so I realized it was time to “phone a friend.”
More than once, as I opened up to what’s been going on in my life, not two sentences have been out of my mouth that friends tried offering advice on what to do.
“Have you thought of…” “Maybe you should just change…” “Just try…”
My initial thoughts in response were, “Okay, friends, gee thanks for listening. If you would listen, I could tell you that I have tried, thought of, and changed lots of those things. Let me just tell you the story please.”
It was almost more disappointing to talk to friends, when instead of advice I really just wanted to be heard. I wanted to get my story off of my chest with how life seemed to be momentarily snowballing down a hill, far and fast away from me.
Don’t get me wrong. I love each of my friends dearly. Their advice was sweet and they wanted to be helpful. And I know I’ve been in their shoes, jumping in with advice and explanations to my girlfriends without really hearing why they are even upset.
I think we hate seeing the people we love suffer, however big or small, and we just want to fix it for them and make it all go away, so we help manage their problem with answers instead of trying to understand the person in front of us.
But, maybe instead of fixing our friends and loved ones problems, the best thing we can do is to simply be there and listen to them. Let them talk out the latest issue and life dilemma. Let them tell their story.
The Bible calls us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” James, as well as a plethora of other passages and verses throughout Proverbs that speak of silence being wiser than talking.
On Facebook, I see the opposite of listening when it comes to political rants. You can look up the story of the gorilla with the boy at the zoo, the shooting in Orlando, and most recently the alligator that attacked the boy in shallow water at a Disney resort. All of which are heart breaking, sad stories that should be grieved and talked about.
But when each of those events turned into a political rant in a matter of hours, blaming, finger pointing, arguments breaking out online… I wonder did anyone actually get the full story and listen before becoming angry and telling their opinion of what to do?
Did anyone hear the parents of the boys with the animals? Did anyone listen to some of the family members speaking about their loved ones killed in the shooting in Orlando? Is anyone willing to hear out another opinion that is different from their own?
It’s easy to want to talk, fix the problem as we see it, and make divisions of what “should have happened” in lots of things in life, but it is better to listen.
From experience of being on both sides of the spectrum, listen to your friends; give them your ear and attention. It’s rare that we have the undivided attention of people these days what with media and technology filling up our space and time.
Who knows? Maybe listening to a friend’s story will allow you to open up with your own story that could be vulnerable and healing in a deeper way than just giving trite advice to the momentary problems of life.
So I encourage you, smile, hug, and love on those in your circle of influence, and let’s try and recapture the Biblical, lost Art of Listening.
Photo Cred: Chelsea Steller
Juliandra Durkin is the manager for Wonderfully Made’s blog Know Your Value. She also writes at Written Jewels, a personal blog with stories and reflections on life. Besides writing, she spends her free time exercising or out in nature. Give her a beach or a mountain; sunrise or sunset, she loves it all, especially walking her dogs in the woods! A graduate of Westmont College, Juliandra was able to attend three study abroad programs exploring Spain, parts of the Middle East, and Mexico. These experiences gave her a heart for culture and travel and she hopes to get more stamps in the passport soon!