Honouring one another
Simon Pettit, well known to many in the Newfrontiers family, died in 2005. He was a good friend and there are hundreds who felt the same about him as I did. How could it be that he had such a wide group of genuine, deep friends? I believe it is because of his real love for people and an exceptional ability to focus his attention on you. When you were with him no-one else mattered. He was deeply interested in you, your family and the things that were taking your attention in life. As such he was also a wise advisor or counsellor. In short, he had an exceptional ability to really listen.
The grief that followed his death lasted, for me, for many months, and I know I was not alone. How much longer must this have lasted for his lovely family.
Self-centred or you-centred?
As I have been listening to recent political debates from UK, around the referendum which resulted in Brexit, or from the USA, around the presidential election, I have been reminded of Simon. What a huge contrast I have observed between him and those politicians and commentators. In general they have shown no interest in the other person as such. They leave no room for allowing the other person to shape their thinking. Frequently they talk over one another, or fail to answer a question since they are determined to promote their own agenda. They are very self-centred. They just do not listen!
Hearing or Listening?
There are times when the two words ‘Hearing’ and ‘Listening’ are used almost interchangeably. However, I prefer to think of hearing as being primarily about physics, the interaction of sound waves on the eardrum and associated auditory mechanisms, whereas listening is about hearing with understanding and the intention to respond. As my dictionary defines it, ‘listen = hear with intention’. Simon certainly did that; he heard what you said with the intention of really getting to know you better and empathising with you.
Jesus had some thoughts…
In Luke’s gospel (Luke 8:8) Jesus teaches about the kingdom using a parable about sowing. He is keen for his hearers to grasp the message: ‘he who has ears to hear let him hear’. In other words, ‘if you have the ability to hear, pay attention and listen carefully with understanding’. In verse 10 (Luke 8:10) he makes it clear there is an alternative way of hearing, stating that many hear yet do not understand. But in v15 (Luke 8:15) he commends those who hear the word, hold it fast and ‘bear fruit with patience’.
Finally, in v18 (Luke 8:18) he warns ‘be careful how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away’. A sober warning!
A good listener is someone who honours the speaker by giving their full attention. Over the next few weeks I want to try to help you develop your listening skills so that one day others may be able to speak of you as I have spoken of Simon. But change takes time and self-discipline. Are you willing to come on this journey with me?