Listen Generously

Submitted by Lindsay Bryant

I have been having several small, lightbulb moments over the last several months, and here is part of what I've learned. Everyone wants to be heard. More than than, I might argue, people want to be known. I am learning that there is an art and a science to this.

I am working toward my Masters of Social Work right now, so I am learning all about the 'when, where, why, how' of asking questions. Social work is also known as one of the "helping professions."

What is the best way to help someone? Figure out their need.

How do you figure that out? Ask questions (that is a huge oversimplification, after all, I'm only a student).

But time and time again, I find myself in these odd situations where perfect strangers are spilling their guts to me. Either, I have a sign on my back or people have really poor boundaries, and I don't think it is either of those things. I think that in our noisy society of constant contact, instant connection and fearing that we're missing out on something in our relationships (or subscribers, followers or fans), we've forgotten how to listen to others. 

One professor opened up her class last term by having us journal (ugh, I know!) and answering the following question:

"When was the last time you were truly, and generously listened to?"


It took a while for a lot of people to answer that question and I think that is pretty telling of our society. I'm learning that in relationship, silence has a place and being generous with my listening is one of the biggest gifts I can give.

Now, I'm not talking about passive silence or preoccupied 'listening', but active listening and being present. Not pretending to listen when I am really just trying to think of what I'll say next or some witty/snarky remark (Proverbs 18:13, anyone?). To just receive.

The fact that perfect strangers will tell me some pretty deep stuff (we're talking a car salesman, the guy sitting next to me at the bus stop and my loan officer), is an indication that people are craving to just be heard and known. To spend those 10-15 minutes to really be present with someone when normally I would have passed it off as someone annoying me with their 'complaining' before.

I love this picture (above).  Central Park in mid-November is full of cool and sunshiny days, leaves falling to the ground like a sort of autumnal snowfall, and people bustling about all around you.  It's a rare slice of silences amidst the chaos of 8 million people.  A reflection of the beauty of each person's story.  A reminder of how personal God is, that He knows and listens generously.