A Sacred Gift in an Age of Words

I had a guy call me this last week who wanted to talk. Now, a bit of confession when it comes to “counseling” on my part:

I never have a clue what’s going on.

Over the years I have learned to keep a pretty good Herbstreit poker face in these situations. But 9 out of 10 times when someone comes to talk to me my thoughts range from: “Well, don’t know what to tell you…” to “Holy crap! That’s messed up!” (I’ll clear my schedule for those of you whose desire to talk to me just went up.)

I talked to this particular kid for about twenty minutes and I really didn’t say anything. The one thing I have going for me is I learned enough in grad school to ask the kinds of questions that keep people talking. About three hours later, he texted me to thank me for our conversation.

My question was: What did I do? I said nothing. I gave no advice. I fixed no problems.

All I did was listen.

But that was all I needed to do. Truth be told, that is all we really want most of the time anyway. A safe place where we can confess what is going on, not be judged, and have another human being who cares about what we have to say.

I joke about the whole process but there is something sacred and beautiful about the simple act of listening. We live in a world where everyone has something to say, but few people actually listen. We are inundated with other people’s thoughts, activities and pictures of what they are eating that night. But listening is something rare in our world.

So people throw up a tweet or a status in hopes someone might see the deeper meaning.

Or they just spew their thoughts and opinions on the local bank teller.

There is a great need in each of our hearts to be listened to. Sometimes the greatest act of love we can give a person is to simple keep our mouth shut.  In a world with so many words, listening is a gift.

It is a gift that requires us to slow down and be present. It requires us to be more focused on another person than ourselves. It requires time and effort. It requires us to not try to fix the problem.

But there are few gifts as loving, beautiful and needed in our world. So this week, I challenge you to give that gift to someone. Here’s three ideas:

  1. Take someone out to coffee who you know is having a rough time and just let them spew.
  2. When you are out with someone, put away the cell phone and be more concerned about what they are saying that what you are going to say next.
  3. When you get the chatty waitress or checker, actually listen to what they say and ask questions.

Let us know how it goes!

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