'Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.' - Psalm 55
Do you know that we listen at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1000-3000 words per minute? In other words when someone is talking to us our mind is racing!
It is a real challenge to learn how to listen. There is so much noise around us these days. It’s not just traffic or people or TV or music. It is the noise of busyness and to-do lists, the noise of pressure to meet deadlines and the noise of feeling overwhelmed or tired.
Some of us can hear the words of another person but our racing thoughts and divided attention mean that we don’t hear more than the words. We don’t hear what is behind the words, what is left unsaid, what is being felt deeply in the core of who that person is. We don’t hear the clues given to us in the expression on the face or the tone of the voice.
We live in an age that has the most technological means of communication in history, yet at the same time many people don’t feel that they have been heard. We have means now of communicating with someone instantly across the world through phone or email or Skype and yet loneliness is at epidemic proportions. We hear of people dying in their homes and it is weeks before they are discovered. Have we lost our way in knowing how to care for one another? Do we know how to listen?
King David discovered in God someone who heard his heart – especially when he was distressed. He wrote in Psalm 55: ‘Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.’
What is interesting about this is that listening doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a magic answer. God listened to him in the morning but he still needed to cry out again. David’s point was that he could cry out to God anytime and even if there was not a solution to the distress, he was still heard.
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that when we listen to someone we have to solve the problem. In doing that we fail to listen properly, for often what the person needs is not a solution but someone who will hear their pain and not move away from them or give them simplistic answers.
It takes great inner resources to be with someone and really hear what is happening for them emotionally, to be with them in that pain and not feel we have to fix it, to be like God and really ‘hear’.
At Mary Andrews College we run units in pastoral care that teach people how listen for more that just the words. Click here to learn more about units that will help you really hear another person and encourage them in the core of their being.