“The truth is that careful listening feels so much like love that most of us can hardly tell the difference.” –Dr. James Dobson
This quote was presented at a leadership meeting I attended last week and it has been on my mind ever since. February is known as the month of love. We Americans spend billions of dollars on flowers, candy and jewelry every February 14th in an effort to communicate our love for our children, our spouses, or other significant people in our lives. Yet, according to Dr. Dobson, careful listening is one of the most loving gifts we can give to our families.
My daughter Brianna communicated her need for my focused attention, even as a toddler. If I attempted to do household chores or work on my computer while she was telling me a story, she would say, “Listen to me with your eyes, Mommy”. She had a speech impediment at the time, so it sounded more like, “Lithen to me wiff your eyes, Mommy.” She was adorable. She was also correct in her assessment that her mother was not actually listening to what she was saying. Whenever possible, I would walk away from my computer or put down my dusting cloth, look her in the eyes, and give my story-telling-toddler my full attention.
When asked what command in God’s Word is most important, Jesus said,“Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: Love others as well as you love yourself”(Matthew 22:37-39 MSG).
We all like to know our thoughts have been heard. Carefully listening to the thoughts, opinions, and feelings of others makes them feel validated and lets them know we value their ideas. It occurs to me that careful listening will not only communicate love to our families, but it will enhance the quality all our relationships.
Carefully listening when you ask the polite question, “How are you?” while passing a sister-in-Christ in the church hallway, just might reveal when her, “Oh, I’m alright,” really means she needs encouragement and prayer. Looking into the eyes of a friend as she shares her thoughts and feelings, is one way you can communicate that you care and want to help carry her burden, “and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”(Galatians 6:2).
As this February draws to a close—the month when we talk a lot about love—let’s set our sights on loving like Jesus said we should. Let’s love our God with our passion and our prayers and with the intellect our Lord has given us. Let’s love people by carefully listening to their thoughts and feelings. Let’s ask God to help us be fully present as we interact with the people God has placed in our lives. Let’s listen to them with our eyes as well as with our ears. We will communicate love and I suspect our relationships will take on new depth.
How has careful listening enhanced your relationships?