Communication. It’s always meant a two-way process to me: you talk, I listen; I talk, you listen. But I’ve been thinking more about it because of two things I’ve heard in the past week.
First, a friend of mine, a psychotherapist, volunteered in a conversation that she thinks one major reason people struggle within families and friendship groups to communicate – and one reason many casual relationships fray – is that we have lost the art of asking simple questions and then listening for the answer. She actually says that cell phones are part of the problem. She pointed out that before cells when we wanted to speak to our cousin, we would call the landline going to their home. We would likely wind up first talking to our cousin’s spouse or child: someone with whom we probably would have a casual relationship at best. And we’d ask how they were, how was school/work, and have a brief conversation in which we were listening at least 50% of the time. And from those casual, respectful exchanges when we truly wanted to hear something of this relative of a relative, we could build a relationship. Now, when we want to call that same cousin, we just use their cell phone and speak to them directly. We may talk about their spouse or child but that’s very different from respectfully listening to that person on our own. Regardless of what you think of my friend’s analysis (and I for one will not easily surrender my cell phone) I’m intrigued by the idea of the casual and respectful connections that don’t happen as easily today.
Second, I was rereading some biblical studies I used long ago in seminary. One of my New Testament professors (who is still teaching!) pointed out how often Jesus listened. I had always thought of Jesus as asking questions and responding to questions as such a brilliant teacher/Socratic rabbi. And while my professor certainly pointed out Jesus’ teaching methodology, he also quickly pointed out that to ask so many questions meant that Jesus spent a lot of time listening to people, and deeply listening at that. My teacher estimated that if you count (which I have never done) Jesus listened to over 150 people in different situations. Jesus did say in Matthew 18 that if you have a quarrel with a fellow believer you should seek that person out and talk to them. And a lot of communication is that respectful listening, right?
So you see where this is going. To communicate we have to listen. And to listen we have to restrain ourselves: to hear the other.
I was taught to communicate but a lot of that teaching centered on me getting ready to share what I know or have experienced in sermons, lessons, administrative matters, and to tell others Good News. But, I also learned that to communicate I have to listen.
I invite you in this season of fear and unrest to work at the listening part of communication. Listen to your fellow believers, ask a few simple questions and be brave enough to listen to the response. Listening is hard work and sometimes very hard when you are told things with which you disagree or when you hear something that feels attacking to you. But listening is the work of healing and communicating. It is the work God does for us. In the words of a great hymn, “God hears thy sighs . . . God shall lift up thy head.” (Give to the Winds Thy Fears)
When you listen you will hear God speak through others; you will be changed; you will be assured.
Listening for the Spirit,
If you would like to view past editions of Hello from Harvey, follow this link: https://capitaldistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/