When learning a language you spend a lot of time listening. With the program we use, when we first start out, we are spending pretty much all of our language session time listening and pointing. Even now, though we have progressed further, we spend the majority of our time listening. Listening during sessions, listening to our recordings in the afternoons or evenings… a lot of listening.
Have you ever thought about how many hours a baby spends listening before they start trying to say their first words? Even after they start talking, how much time are they just taking in the sounds they are hearing, putting them into words and then eventually, making sense of them? Listening makes up a major part of any communication experience.
Why then, I find myself often wondering, do I need to consistently remind myself to be a better listener? You would think that I have had enough practice in my lifetime. Yet really listening to someone is so much more than just making sense of the words and phrases that they are saying.
When I listen to my friends here, I am seeking to understand not only the words that they are saying, but the motivations behind the words… their cultural values, their beliefs, their fears and hopes… It takes real effort to truly listen, and I sometimes find that I sabotage myself. I am so busy trying to process my own thoughts, feelings and possible responses to people that I stop actually listening. Usually that results in my jumping to conclusions too quickly and making half formed judgment calls.
On the flipside, when I can hold off on trying to come up with a response too quickly, I usually find the reward of listening. Sometimes I learn to see something in an entirely new way, and can add it to my own life experience, and our family culture. Other times, even if I still disagree with what I’m hearing, I can have a better understanding of what might be driving the choices being made. I see that there is oftentimes so much fear and desperation… a search for something greater than ourselves because we are face to face with our own powerlessness.
Listening leads to better understanding, understanding often leads to compassion, and compassion will drive me to my knees in prayer for the people around me; different in many ways, but in all the most important ways, the same. Made by a God who loves us, broken and in need of His mercy. Wholly reliant on His grace. Sought after, mourned over, sacrificed for.
Oh, that I would learn to listen like the One who longs for us to call on Him.