Love is Listening

Today we are going to discuss some situations where listening might seem like the last thing you’d want to do, and yet, it’s a great opportunity to show love to others!Today we are going to discuss some situations where listening might seem like the last thing you’d want to do, and yet, it’s a great opportunity to show love to others.

However, we’ve discussed listening skills before.  If you want some practical tips, check out Episode 10: Kindness & Listening Skills

When I think of the type of listening I’m talking about today, I’m reminded of God listening to the children of Israel while they were still slaves in Egypt.

Exodus 2:24-25 says, “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.”

He heard, remembered, saw, and knew.
Notice there is no talking involved on his part here,no getting defensive, no explaining why he did it that way. He listened.  He listened to their complaints, their grief, their frustrations, their groanings.  ANn he remembered his promise.  He saw their pain.  He was able to feel their situation clearly.

That’s love in listening.
And we are called to do the same for others.

John 15: 12-13 instructs us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

How often do we have the chance to simply lay down our life for others, literally?

In this country? Not very often.
But how often do we have the opportunity to lay down our defensiveness, our determination to be proved right, our desire to justify our actions, our reputation, or our perceived status in society?
Every single day, right?

This is love.  We can listen and I’m about to show you several areas where this applies, and some practical ways you can look at the situation so it becomes easier.

INAY

These are my favorite four letters when it comes to times I am called to listen and keep my mouth shut!

It’s Not About You.”

This is my slogan. SOmetimes I put it on a piece of paper when I’m coaching online. Sometimes I write it on my hand so I see it in conversation.  Other times, I’ve set it as a reminder to pop up on my phone.  WHen I present to an audience and I’m nervous about how it’s all going to come out, if I’ll be heard, if I’ll use the word “really” far too much- I tape it to my notes so I am reminded that my entire purpose is not about me.  It’s about others.  It is love.

Here’s some other situations where this reminder comes in handy:
– when your parents or in-laws are telling you how to parent.

It’s not about you. THey have ideas and how they did it. It feels good to help, and they also have an opportunity to validate their own decisions in their parenting styles. None of that is about you, how you parent, whether your choices are best, etc.  It’s about them. Lovingly listen.

– When your relatives or friends make insensitive comments:
To the single person, they might say, “You might just have to stop being so picky.”
To the grieving parent after a death of a child or major illness, you’d hear, “So, what is God trying to teach you through this?”
To the pregnant woman, “Whoa! You got twins in there?”
To the mom of many kids, “Don’t you know what causes that?”

All of these can obviously feel insensitive, but none of them are about you.  Often they are more about the other person trying to either figure out what to say, how to come to terms with a difficult situation, figure out how to make up for the obvious elephant in the room, or they are putting themselves in your position and have no idea how they would handle it or feel and are taking a stab. All of that is about THEM. It’s Not About You.

When we realize the comments aren’t really about us, it’s easier to listen, and let them fall off like they are no big deal.

Another area we can apply this is with our spouse and kids.

Let’s take the spouse first.

We simultaneously want our husbands to be authentic, vulnerable, and honest while also being our protector, steady support, and tolerant of our wishy washy emotions sometimes.

For some, it’s the other way around- the wife is the steady and the husband is the wishy washy one.  But in most relationships, there’s a combination of the two somewhere and to some degree it goes both ways.

When a spouse comes to us with genuine concerns, do we immediately assume they are blaming us, take it personally, get mad and defensive?

Or do you hold space for them to share their feelings, remember that their experience is not about you and listen with love?

It’s not always easy.  Especially if what their concerned about is also a perfect match for something we feel like we fail at regularly.  However, it’s still a good opportunity to show love and listen without becoming defensive.  Because their sharing is about them.  It’s Not About You.

SImilarly, with children.  WHen our children come to us with complaints, it can be easy to feel underappreciated, attacked, personally offended, etc.  But we have the opportunity to hear them and their difficulties from the stand point of being a safe place for them to say how they really feel.  Isn’t that what God does with us?  He listens- however it comes out, doesn’t take offense at us, and then does exactly what needs doing. He loves us by listening.

One practical way you can do this with your family, is to have a specific time where all of you get together and then take turns going around the room giving opportunity to each person to share what’s working and not working lately in their life. Write the things down, so you can remember and discuss them later.

You can take it one step further and pass out index cards for them to write anything down that feels too embarrassing to share.  Then at the end, collect them and address those privately.

This is not a time to explain why you do what you do, why their request isn’t possible, or how ridiculous they are being.  This is an opportunity to show love by listening.

When we have done this as a family, I am always blown away by some of the little things that feel so big to my children that they are carrying around. It will soften your hearts towards them.  You will hear them, and be able to feel their pain.

You may think you are already a family that communicates well. I think we are. It was still worth trying.

In conclusion,
Love is listening.
It’s not about you.

Let them tell their story,  ask questions, comment about what is interesting, consider why certain things make them feel certain ways.  Ask them why, how, if they could… Love them by listening.

What one action will you take today to show love to others?

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