Listen to Me
When Deborah, a middle-aged, divorced woman was found dead in her room with a lethal syringe still dangling on her thigh, the local counselor recalled two significant facts he had observed about her. First, although Deborah was affiliated with a near by church, she had no close friends. Second, she had a distressing tale that she had to share with someone who would listen. She found nobody responsive enough with whom to share her story, and in a way that is what killed her. Probably the only ears that ever listened to her were those of Sly, her tomcat.
Our churches, homes, and workplaces are full of Deborah's people in dire need of being listened to. "It is impossible," said renowned Christian psychiatrist Paul Tournier, "to overemphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood."1 The world is thirsty for quality listeners. Teenagers talk to the wrong people because adults have no time or will to listen. Spouses confide in the wrong ears because they don't find patience or grace in the ears of their life partner. Nowhere do we see more clearly the don't-care attitude that has permeated our culture than in our low tolerance to the "tales" of
This is why, at least in part, effective listening is a minister's premium skill. Good listening adds quality to pastoral services because people perceive it as ultimate proof of love and care for them. Unlike talking, listening is "selfish-proof." It is not "I" centered but "other" oriented. By listening actively the minister tells the talker, "what concerns you is important to me also . . . because you matter. I want to share your pain and happiness."