Ever been around a great listener? Almost all of my favorite people I have ever been around are great listeners. Why is that? What I have found is that most every one of them also have another common trait…compassion. Compassionate people are a pleasure to be around. Maybe it’s because they are less interested in only dishing out advice. Maybe it’s because their minds aren’t fixated on themselves and their problems. Either way, I think it’s because they are being like Jesus.
One thing we know about Jesus is that He is a great listener. There are too many examples of this throughout scripture to list here, but a story that always sticks out in my mind is when Jesus healed the blind beggar in Luke 18:35-42. In this passage, Jesus not only heard him crying out above the noise of the crowd, but then he called the man forward to come near and asked him what he wanted him to do for him (knowing already what was needed). He gave the man an opportunity to be heard. Then Jesus had compassion on him and healed him…right there in front of the same crowd that passed by the poor guy every day. Jesus entered into the man’s pain, heard him out, had compassion on him, then helped him without giving him a lecture.
As a father, I have plenty of opportunities to learn more about listening daily. Admittedly, I am a work in progress when it comes to listening and displaying Christ-like compassion. My desire is to not just listen with my ears, but to try and listen below the surface of what is really being said (or demonstrated). It isn’t easy. In fact it’s downright difficult (almost impossible at times). I think the primary reason is because I want to “fix” things as quickly as they arise without entering the pain with my son. There is always a deeper layer that needs to be excavated, to be exposed to the light, addressed, healed. Those deeper layers can only be accessed by way of compassion and understanding and by being a good listener. When we jump right into lecture mode we heap layers of dirt on top of the already existing ones, thereby inhibiting any previously made progress. I know I have likely messed it up as much as I’ve gotten it right. So I am thankful that God’s grace supersedes my mistakes in these cases.
This same thought also reigns true in society in general, we are so quick to get our view points across. We want to be heard. We want to impress or demonstrate what we know. We want to be right. However, I think sometimes, for me anyway, really listening and trying to understand someone, seeing things through their perspective is super hard because it also makes me vulnerable. It makes us open up to the idea that maybe someone is hurting…and that isn’t safe to us. Maybe it strikes a nerve in our own lives or activates some fear we have buried 100 feet below our social media persona. So we put up walls…Limits on how much we can tolerate before we either back off, change the subject, go off on a rant about why “they” are wrong, or lob words of wisdom in someone’s direction. However, it is meaningless to try and encourage someone when they feel they have not been heard. How well we listen will directly determine the weight of our words.
We live in a society that is absolutely starved for compassion, yet very few desire to give it. It’s hard. It is hard to listen to someone else’s pain without interjecting. Listening and saying nothing is a discipline. We tend to want to minimize the relevancy of the pain others might be walking through. However, we lose our compassion when we minimize someone else’s pain. Jesus didn’t look at the suffering blind man and think, “Oh come on, your life is not THAT bad man”. He didn’t rush by and say, “Be healed…bye”. He stopped. He listened. He let the man use his voice. He entered into that man’s pain. He responded with compassion.
Whether it’s in our families, at work, our perspective on race relations, religion, politics, or some other area of our lives, we could all benefit from practicing the discipline of listening. I think we should all decided to start approaching people with a little more compassion and a little less judgement. If we can start to open up to the idea that we might not have all the practical answers and just be okay with entering someone else’s pain so that Jesus can be the answer, it can actually cause healing to take place in them (and ourselves). Listening goes a long way toward healing.
“Lord, help me to never be a contributor to a compassion-less society. I want to be your hands extended. Teach me to be a good listener. Please remind me to not rush past someone’s hurt. I want to be compassionate as you are compassionate, because I want to see wounds healed. Amen.“