I’m not a fan of listening as a “skill”, because it is much richer and significant in its action, creating opportunity for greater engagement. A skill can often be done with little emotion, generated out of routine and memory. Where listening has commonality to a skill is that it has a developing nature to it; that the more someone practices it, traveling through the clumsy and awkward stages, the more fine tuned the ability becomes.
But listening is much more than a skill or craft, like woodworking, cooking, art, etc. Listening becomes a part of the self and the heart, colored and enriched by compassion, tenderness and a deep care. It creates an encounter for beautiful engagement, closeness and healing. Woven into us is a desire to be seen and known, and listening nourishes and nurtures that need.
In all honesty, I think the greatest healing is not the miraculous, but relational engagement and attunement. Such significant transformation of the heart occurs within the healing presence of one another that God has hardwired into us; this is the most significant spiritual encounter. When a person is seen and known, something shifts; the person becomes alive, tender, innocent, and “child-like” and they open up more because they feel safe.
When listening becomes a part of the self, it doesn’t become “second-nature”, it is the nature of the self. As one begins to open up and share, something within is ignited and activated in the listener, hearing the deeper messages and cries of the heart that may not always be explicit in its delivery. We feel with them, experiencing their heart and their world, discerning when to speak, respond, challenge/confront, laugh, cry and comfort. We feel when they pull away in reaction to our response or because of the shame in revealing greater vulnerabilities.
We also enter into vulnerable chambers with them, discovering the nuances of their internal world. No formula can substitute for a compassionate heart that deeply attunes and cares for the soul of another, allowing the true self to beam through the cracks of the hurting heart. And we all have the potential to become the listener, but only when we first begin to listen to and care for our own heart…(to be continued)