Martin Luther King said, “People hate each other because they fear each other. People fear each other because they don’t understand each other. People don’t understand each other because they don’t know how to listen.”
One New Year’s resolution I am afraid to even think about is to become a better listener. When I listen, I find I want to fix things, to help solve problems, to make it all better. My first response is to give advice. (Ask my sister!) I have learned people don’t want my advice! For a “fixer” like me, when my adult son gently tells me he knows he should be careful driving in the snow, I realize I need to allow him to be a grownup on his own. But I’m learning it is more than allowing someone to be on their own. A friend of mine, Marcia McReynolds, put it well: “We give advice when we want to ease someone’s discomfort. Discomfort can be a sign of alchemy, the heat of new wisdom burning through to consciousness. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Listening helps people find their own advice within.”
Can I recognize my automatic response to someone’s discomfort is meant well, and not berate myself? Can I remind myself that the other person needs me to listen, while they process their own advice within? If I must “do something,” can I pray for them while listening? Can I allow the person time to heed the wisdom God is giving them?
As a teacher/librarian, I want to also love myself by listening to this encouraging quote by one of my favorite storybook characters, Winnie the Pooh: “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” Dear God, please help me love myself, and please take the fluff of fixing out of my ear so I can listen.
Contributed by Kay Ellison, West Hills Friends