Entries with tag listening .

Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn

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.


Taylor Swift, Ryan Adams, and the Cross of Christ - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

I know every word to Taylor Swift’s album 1989. It’s sad, but true. My one-year-old daughter hates being in her car seat (a veritable prison for an adept crawler), but for some reason unbeknownst and begrudged by everyone else in our family, 1989 soothes her. Needless to say: we’ve heard a lot of Taylor Swift’s chipper music.

That’s why when I first saw that Ryan Adams had covered 1989, I laughed at the clear irony. Anyone who has heard Adams can understand that his melancholic music hardly shares anything in common with Swift’s upbeat tunes. But when I listened, I realized that underneath her cheery veneer is buried a deeply hurt girl whose life is replete with longing and broken relationships. Adams’ take on 1989 revealed Swift’s music for what it is.

As (bad) luck would have it, when I was writing this, I stumbled across Jamie Smith’s interpretation of this reality here. I will leave the liturgical reflections to him, but my experience with Adams and Swift left me realizing that while I was listening to her, I hadn’t really heard her.

Even though Taylor Swift has been pumping through my car’s speakers for the last 7 months, and while I could sing along with every song, I got lost in the major keys and general feel of her music. So I missed her. I missed the sadness, the heartbreak, the loneliness.

There’s something about hearing Ryan Adams sing “Shake It Off” that makes it finally appear in all its lyrical potency. As he sings, “I’m dancing on my own, I’ll make the moves up as I go, and that’s what they don’t know...that’s what they don’t know…” one can finally see that Swift’s resolve to shake off the haters is more of a pep talk than an embodied reality.

Surely we all know how it is to work up the courage to bounce back after disgrace. It takes lots of self-talk, lots of vulnerability in the face of others who are waiting for another failure. This led me to wonder: if I were Taylor Swift’s friend, would I have caught on to the truth stirring in her heart, striving to rise again? Or would I have bought the lie that she already believed that “it’s gonna be alright?”

Indeed, this causes me to wonder how often my own friends use smiles to stifle the screams welling up inside. While I may hear them saying that everything is okay, am I really listening to hear the deeper truth of their hearts? Perhaps I want their responses to be more in line with Taylor’s 1989 than Adams’.

In the Church, perhaps we run into the same problem. Perhaps we actually even prefer the Taylor Swift version of people’s lives. And perhaps we like this version because it doesn’t demand all that much from us. Listening to Swift, we might think that her pain is a cleaned up product that we can dance to, but Adams demands that we sink into the pit, that we hear the sorrow for what it is. Perhaps we don’t actually want to hear people share the Adams version of their lives.

What would it be like if the people in our communities felt that they could tell the truth of their lives? What would our parishes be like if we actually all heard each other? What if the Church was more like a community of people who could open the sadness? The hurt? The longing?

If we truly believe in a God who draws near to us in the Cross, then we need not be afraid of the darkness that bites at the heels of us all. We can, instead, enter it fearlessly, knowing that it is through the Cross that joy enters the world, bringing Resurrection to all.

So the next time we are tempted to overlook someone's pain by taking "I'm fine" at face value, let’s lower the volume on the Taylor Swift we hear, and try to tune into their inner Ryan Adams. We may be delightfully surprised to find that as we share in one another's loneliness, we suddenly have company inside the pit. As darkness flees from the light, so, too, does loneliness flee from connection with others.

Then, and only then, can we fully appreciate the transformation of the musical tenor of Adams into the upbeat rhythm of Swift, a rhythm we can all dance to, for it is the rhythm of the broken heart that we all share.


Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Photo Credits:

Sad Girl: Depositphotos

Sad Guy: Depositphotos


For more:

Check out Ryan Adams' cover of T-Swfit's "Blank Space":

Check out Ryan Adams' cover of T-Swizzle's "Shake It Off":

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