From the Chapter “Listen Well” in the book Equilibrium: 31 Ways to Stay Balanced on Life’s Uneven Surfaces.

Many people often say the church would be fine if it wasn’t for, well, people. I understand the intention. So often said with a smile or a giggle, it is actually stated in reference to hurt. We all know about hurt, and we know about how hurt comes from people. But not only have we all been hurt by people, we have also hurt people. I’ve often heard the phrase about how hurt people hurt people. And that is true. Unfortunately, we fail to deal directly and correctly with our hurts. We deny them and act like all is well, while inner emotional bruises turn into bitterness. The silly humor stated with a grin contains deep meaning.

Before we defend our stories, do we listen to the stories of others?

Do we listen well to their stories?

I don’t mean a brief chat. I mean deep dialogue. Honest conversations. True confessions. Open ended questions and candid answers. No hurries toward conclusions. No rapid defense mechanisms. No placing them in a bubble. No judging or rejecting or escaping.

Talking a little.

Listening well.

Today’s culture isn’t crafted to pursue listening. We prefer brief texts, short stories, one-word answers.

What do we need and crave, even when we’re afraid of it? Lengthy discussions at mealtime. Long walks with long talks, mingling peaceful and comfortable silence between the nouns and verbs. Eye to eye contact. Questions asked to confirm initial understanding is correct. More questions asked to see what might be, should be, could be done to rejoice or repent or receive or accept or forgive or understand or love.

Having a goal to truly hear and understand instead of insisting on ourselves being heard and understood. Having a hope to creative a climate of, “Yes, I care about you, and I want to hear your story.”

Do we create that climate for those around us? Do we craft that mood for those around us?

Sure, not everyone is wired that way. But does that mean we should not learn to listen better? See it as an art. Some are better than others, more natural, better trained early in life. Some have chosen to do all the talking as a method of hiding behind noise to not allow others to notice their deep fears. But all, yes each of us, should set a goal of listening well. Remembering we have two eyes and two ears, and only one mouth.

Talk less.

Listen well.