As a counselor, listening is a big part of what I offer others as they come to me with struggles that need to be shared and worked through. Below are some thoughts that came to me today as one of my good friends spurred a conversation about this topic.

Listening is often one of the hardest, but most important things we can do. 

For many of us, it’s simply hard to just listen. Our lives are full of things that distract us from this crucial act of love and grace that we can offer to each other. There is always so much competing for our minds that it can be very hard to be silent and give someone full attention. It’s easy to underestimate the impact that listening to others can have. Not realizing and believing in its value, we fail to implement it in our daily interactions. Many times we lean towards other means of trying to help, such as offering advice or referring them to a book or someone else.

Listening can be scary. 

Listening can be scary? Surprisingly, yes. Listening puts us in a position of silence, which for some of us is just not comfortable. While listening, we may hear something that hits home, spurring fear and shame from our own personal lives. Sometimes we feel pressure to have answers for others, so we struggle to listen because we are trying to figure out what we are going to say. This kind of perspective also breeds fear that can make us want to stay away from situations in which we are called to listen.

Listening is good for all those involved.   

Listening is a gift of grace, and this gift is not just for the one being heard. When we listen to others, we stand to benefit as well from this precious gift. Listening can uncover our own wounds. God can use such times to help reveal and meet our own needs. By its very nature, the act of listening requires us to be quiet. These moments of silence (which many of us often avoid) allow us time to hear what God is saying. It gives us an opportunity to engage with those things on our hearts and minds that are troubling us. I have found it to be true that God often connects me with people that wind up sharing things that I can relate to myself. It seems that He creates connections for needs to be met and wounds to be healed.

Listening meets needs. 

The truth is, when someone is simply heard, many of their immediate needs are met, including the need for attention, the need for acceptance, the need for grace, and the need for security. By listening, we express value in another person. When we are able to remember that we do not have to have answers, we rely on and trust God to provide them at the right time. His plan is always much better than anything we can come up with.

Listening has become something that I value and engage in quite a bit. I have found myself leaning heavily upon a personal prayer that goes something like this…”God give me your eyes and ears for a second here, because I really want to SEE and HEAR this person”. That conversation with Him helps me put aside distractions and focus on what’s most important in the moment. It reminds me that He is present, no one is expected to fix anything, He will provide what is needed, and my full attention is a wonderful and powerful gift.