Listening to Understand

I have said before that growing up, I was a very big, loud chatter. My family still gives me a hard time about how I basically never shut up. Years later, though, something changed. I became more shy and subtle, at least around big groups of people and those I may not know well. And there’s a reason for that.

My husband has pointed out before that I may not say much- except to him. He has learned not to mess with my feisty attitude when I’m going on a rampage. But when I do have a comment to make, it’s usually well thought out and to the point. I have a much better filter than he does, most people do. I have a thought process that is probably a little slower than others- meaning I need to take in everything being said before I can come up with an answer or opinion. And I think that has really helped in the last few years since getting into youth ministry.

I’ve quickly learned that if kids are opening up to me about something going on in their lives, they’re typically not looking for an answer. They’re not looking for me to give them a story about what I’ve been through and how I can relate to them. All they’re looking for is someone to listen. Someone to sit there and really hear them and what they’re feeling. Not judging them. Not shaming them.

I have this love/hate relationship with my gift of empathy. I can FEEL what others are feeling, sometimes just by looking at them. It’s good because I know when something is wrong, or if somebody is having a hard time. I can give them that time to vent and let their heart out. But that also means that I become vulnerable too. I open my heart and ears up to them so they can get out what they need, while also feeling every gut wrenching thing that they’re feeling. I have to keep in my emotions so they can let theirs out, or I at least try to. Sometimes it’s led to both of us just sitting there crying.

The point to this post is, don’t listen to reply. Don’t listen just to give feed back and an answer that you may think is good, but not what they’re looking for. Listen to understand. To understand their heart and where they’re coming from. To feel what they’re feeling and really just taking it in with them. To let them get out what it is that’s been bottled up for who knows how long. They need that. We all need that.

Be the person you need when you just need somebody to listen.

-J

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