What does listening truly mean? And how is Jesus the perfect example to understand its meaning?
Just the other day I had a moment talking with someone and I felt unheard. This wasn't necessarily true of that relationship generally-speaking but in that specific moment, I felt unheard. As though no one was truly listening. Frustration wanted to build but I just rolled my eyes, sighed and gave it to God.
It did make me think: why is being heard and feeling as though others are listening so important to us? Therapists say, as a good friend or supporter, you just have to listen. It's not always about the response you give, but just showing the other person that you are listening.
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”
Let's be honest. When someone listens to us and we feel heard, it gives our words importance. Our feelings, our circumstance. It makes us feel valued. It makes us feel as though we have something to share that carries true worth and it gives us an opportunity for vulnerability. All which in turn can improve self-esteem, confidence, trust, as well as the relationship at hand. Being a true friend for instance is not just doing something for that person but sometimes just being there to listen, right? Therefore, again, the relationship is strengthened due to this selfless act of showing that the other person's words carry value.
Editor Doug Larson said “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” This clearly shows us that listening not only benefits the other person but it actually rewards the listener that much more. This is due to the fact that we are able to absorb and know better for our own selves due to the careful research we've collected from taking in and not just dishing out.
But let's be honest, it isn't the easiest thing being 'just' a listener. I do appreciate a true listener so much, so honestly, I do do my best to reciprocate. But what about when you do say something? With some people, they have no interest in any of your feedback, help, support or even compliments, no matter how much it would actually help them or their dilemma. In those circumstances, I have to admit, it can be infuriating.
Let's look at Jesus for a moment. His whole life was actually a testament to listening. And that is, listening to the Father. But even though He evidently knew best, and was above every single soul He ever encountered, He listened even to them. He listens not just to the words but even the thoughts of the Pharisees, for instance, when they would criticise his teachings (Luke 5:22). When He talked to the disciples, people on the street or even the perceived enemies of the jews (e.g. Samaritans), he always listened first and heard them out. And when they were on the verge of truth (Mark 12:34), he would respond in wisdom and take them even deeper.
As we know very well, Jesus was often listened to, even if people didn't like what they heard. His wisdom and incredible life-changing, eternity-moulding revelations and truth kept people coming back. And yet the first 30 years of his life, he also merely practiced listening. He listened to the rabbis, to his parents, to God. He studied and obeyed his elders because he knew how vital listening was.
The key to listening is always seeking to learn and understand.
So I encourage you today: let's do more to listen to those around us, and to have more patience if they in turn don't do the same. Trust in God to bring you opportunities to speak if your words have truth and life to give. And if they don't, that He may keep those doors closed until you learn to speak words that will bring fruit and only good fruit. And to give you patience in the meantime.
Remember, the key to listening is always seeking to learn and understand. And the key to speaking is always allowing Christ to come forth. That way, only true wisdom springs forth.