If there was a class on “How to Listen,” I would take it. I would recommend that all of my friends take it. I would recommend that all of my enemies take it, too, for that matter.
One of the major themes I’ve seen over the past few months of my life is that people have trouble truly listening to one another. Some people just need to try harder, while others simply do not want to listen because they might hear things that they don’t want to. Things that don’t align with what they believe. Things that they don’t know how to respond to. But the glorious part of listening is that it’s a skill we can all learn, if we are willing to try.
Here’s a personal example. Over the past year, I’ve learned so much about Orthodoxy through my coworkers at the Archdiocese. How? By asking questions and then shutting my mouth. By not having the expectation that what I want to hear and what I’m going to hear will line up, but instead, truly listening to the answers that I am given.
In the past, I’ve asked questions and fought the answers; asked questions with self-serving motives in mind: to prove my point. But, it’s not my point that I’m looking to prove: it’s Christ’s. And if someone knows His teachings better than I, then you had better believe that I will listen to that person wholeheartedly.
“Orthodoxy” in the above example can really be replaced with anything that you care about. “Knitting,” “Iceland,” “my next door neighbor Peter,” even… “politics.” Shudder.
If you care, listen.
It doesn’t matter if you have all of the evidence in the world to support your point. It doesn’t matter what truths you believe you are spreading. It’s important to listen first, and then if you must speak, you can do so. It’s also important to acknowledge that there are other opinions, other ways of life than the one you choose to lead. Listening is the easiest way to make a human being feel like a human being; to show them that they are worthy and valued.
Because if they aren’t valuable, then I’m not either. I’m a sinner too.
In this toxic, politics-ridden, dare I admit it- fallen- world, we all need to learn to listen to each other. It’s not only the Orthodox way. It’s the human way. It’s the only way.
Now, what you might come to realize is that you don’t listen well. Or that you only listen to share your own opinions. That you’ve driven people out of your life by acting this way.
I have good news: it’s not too late to start listening.
And listening has a lot to do with prayer, as we strive to be like the greatest listener, Jesus Christ. He listens with no agenda other than to offer you His very own Life by allowing you to share your troubles with Him. If we could all be listeners like Jesus Christ, people would feel a lot more of a weight lifted off of their shoulders when they speak. People would be more apt to share their opinions, emotions, sins, without fear of condemnation of judgment, if you and I were better listeners.
Next time you ask a question, prepare yourself to hear the answer. Even if it’s not what you want to hear. Prepare yourself to put your agenda and feelings aside, and to be there for someone who truly needs you to listen to them. And when you find yourself in a position where you need someone to listen to you, you can trust that you will be able to find someone who will extend you the same courtesy that you extended them. The same courtesy that Jesus Christ extends you every time that you pray to Him.
You might not change a mind. You might not even fully comprehend a mind. But the only way that you can even try is if you listen.
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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.