LISTENING to help others feel thankful
You’ll have opportunities to learn how to be thankful during this month that centers around Thanksgiving. How to help others be thankful at this time of the year may be something else entirely, and this is what I present in this four-part series.
Each week in November, I’ll speak to listening, learning, leaning and lifting others with the intent that in conversation those who may be depleted or running low on thankfulness can get a fresh outlook on what it means to be thankful.
Each week, I’ll take one of the verbs—listening, learning, leaning, and lifting—and equip you on how to make a positive impact on someone who needs the gift of being heard, understood, empowered, and upheld.
We begin with listening. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change writes, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
There are times to be conversational and informational, of course. Our days are filled with interactions and simple, surface level exchanges. For example, attend a wedding and reception where you only know the couple marrying and you may be in for a long event. There is so much to say on a deeper level, but the conversations are often surface level only.
It is true that you can open up to a complete stranger. There are advantages to these moments. They are gifts. Usually, they are not sustainable, however. They are one and done opportunities, one hit wonders.
Whether the person listening is a stranger, child, spouse, or longstanding friend, a person needs an empathetic ear from time to time. They need to be heard. The act of your listening is often equal to being embraced gently and lovingly. Offering a listening ear can be a big comfort.
I get it. On the receiving end of listening, we can wonder (or even fear) what has run through all our minds: will this person ever stop talking?
The answer is yes. Oh, I have gabbers in my life, too. Talk, talk, talk and talk. But when they get that you are listening to them, when you repeat back what they’ve said in a tender way, then pauses in the seemingly endless one-sided conversation begin.
When did it ever become about you, anyway?
Yes, you need to be heard as does everyone one else, but the act of being a follower of Christ includes your call to listen to what someone is saying. Right down to the base of someone’s very being, yes, yes, and yes, you listen to them. You’re with them in the deepest, most intimate part of who they are and what they are called to be.
This is what I call the God Place. You share not judgment but the fact that you’ve traveled with them in their words.
The prison guard in Acts 16 hears Paul and Silas. The two prophetic Christians are beaten and imprisoned because they are Christian. In the inner dungeon with shackles on their feet, in the dark of all darkness, in what is unarguably a dire situation, the two sing praises to God.
“Sing praises to God?” the guard must wonder. “Now?”
Somehow the guard hears them in a way that for him is new, different. In time, he must realize that while he held the key to Paul and Silas’ prison cell, he is the one imprisoned. He is the one suffering.
The story in Acts 16 doesn’t include the guard having a conversation with Paul and Silas. Specifically, the text doesn’t say that Paul and Silas listened to the guard. It’s implied there is a conversation and a connection because the guard and his family do become believers in the love and joy of being one with Christ.
Help someone be thankful by listening to them. Listen with the agenda that this isn’t a two-way gab. Instead, listening is a gift you can give. You don’t have to solve their problems. (You likely can’t solve their problems.) Just hear them.
The guard isn’t the only one in a kind of prison. But Jesus did then what Jesus does now, and that’s offer freedom.