Really Listening to Others

Listening by Meganne Forbes

James 1:19-21 (NRSV)
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

Proverbs 17:27-28 (NRSV)
One who spares words is knowledgeable; one who is cool in spirit has understanding. Even fools who keep silent are considered wise; when they close their lips, they are deemed intelligent.

When you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it. -Jiddu Krishnamurti

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning,
that without listening speaking no longer heals,
that without distance closeness cannot cure.
- Henri Nouwen

One thing I cannot stand is when people say, “Hi, how are you?” and they don’t wait to hear how I am. They’re just going through the motions. I say to people: “Keep it human. Keep it alive. Don’t turn into a robot.” You have to hear what the other person is saying clearly. You have to listen, and really care, because we’re all the same under the skin.
- Judith Jamison, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

There are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves. — Albert Guinon

To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear. - Mark Nepo

If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.
— Turkish Proverb

Mark 4:9 (NRSV)
And Jesus said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

Sirach 5:11-12
Be quick to hear, and be deliberate in answering. If you have understanding, answer your neighbor; but if not, put your hand on your mouth.

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.
The best way to understand people is to listen to them. — Ralph Nichols

The first duty of love is to listen.- Paul Tillich

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. — Karl Menninger

To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the ‘music,’ but to the essence of the person speaking. You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow our mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning.
Peter Senge

I discovered—working with my students and working with them working each other—that there is an actual spiritual discipline, and work, of listening to another person, particularly when they disagree with us. And that requires that we step back from our own ego, from our own opinions, and let the other person in. Not to agree or disagree, but simply to let their thought into my own mind. And when I step back from myself in that way, I begin to be a much more moral person. There’s a relation that establishes with another human being. - Jacob Needleman, professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University

Extended quote by Steve Harper entitled Covering Our Ears
Stephen was stoned because the angry crowd covered their ears (Acts 7:57). It was all over after that. It still is.

When we stop listening, we stop relating. When we stop listening, we cease learning. When we stop listening, we lose perspective. When we stop listening, we define reality solely on our terms. And once we have done things like this, we can convince ourselves to do anything necessary to “defend the cause” and “maintain righteousness.”

In Stephen’s case, it meant the crowd felt justified in taking matters into their own hands. And that made it all right to drag him out of the city with their hands, pick up stones with their hands, and throw them with their hands–until he was dead.

Stephen’s greatest vision became grounds for his execution. People who had said “thou shalt not murder” many times in the synagogue, now cried, “kill him” in the street. And that’s what happens when we cover our ears.

For an excellent article by Dr. Gail Brenner entitled Master the Art of Listening and Watch All Your Relationships Thrive, click here

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For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

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