Have you ever tried to sit in silence for even 2 minutes? Try it…don’t think about anything. Not what you want to accomplish today, what you’ll make for dinner, that conversation you had with your mom last night, work, or what you’ll wear today…see how long you last….
Is that hard for you? Because it’s hard for me. Our world is so full of noise and pressure to be productive and get things accomplished. We have distraction right at our fingertips. Driving in the car? Turn the radio on. Waiting for an appointment?Whip out your phone and there is a host of social media options to entertain you. We’re so used to being distracted and busy, that our minds have a really hard time slowing down. At times, we can be so distracted that our relationships with people suffer.
The way I feel most loved is through quality time with people. Sit and have coffee with me, go on a date, or even just have a meaningful conversation without distraction and I feel loved. The key is without distraction. What has the power to make me feel loved also has the power to cause hurt. Recently I had a conversation with a friend that went something like this:
Me: *sharing about my challenging work day and how my job exhausts me lately*
Friend:….*staring off at something behind me* “Oh I’m so sorry, I was distracted by that cute baby behind you. He’s so cute! Ok, keep going.”
Me: “…..It’s ok!” *continue talking*
Friend: “Yeah my job has been really taking a lot out of me too. I totally get it. Like just the other day I…*interrupted by phone call from her mom, and proceeds to have a ten-minute phone conversation*
Friend: “Sorry about that. So as I was saying…” *continues to share her story about work*
Me:(thinking) “…..It’s getting late. What should I make for dinner? I didn’t get anything out last night so it’ll have to be something I can throw together quickly. What was on sale at Kroger, again? I should run by there after this.”
Friend: “….so yeah, I’m not sure what I should do about that. What do you think?”
Me: “…Um, I’m not really sure what you meant by that. Can you tell me again?”….
Obviously, we were both distracted and not listening to each other well. The result was that our time together wasn’t really refreshing and didn’t make either one of us feel very important.
Not very many people feel they can share their heart with you when you’re on your phone constantly, busy doing something else, or clearly not paying attention. To be honest, even if it’s not your intention, distraction can communicate that someone isn’t worth your time and full attention and that you really aren’t that interested in getting to know them. And even though I know the hurt that this can make me feel, I DO THIS TO PEOPLE! Ugh.
So what does God have to say about this? I’m created in God’s image, therefore, the way I give and receive love is designed and modeled after Him. God loves receiving our time and attention, and He loves to share Himself with us (Deuteronomy 6:5) (John 15:15). How much of His heart could we be missing out on because we’re distracted? Maybe God is saying a lot more than we think He is, and all we need to do is slow down, quiet our minds and open our ears in order to realize it (Lamentations 3:24-26).
So how do we learn to become better listeners?
- One way would be to practice! Remember that challenge to sit in silence for 2 minutes? Give it another shot tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. Set a timer so you won’t be tempted to look at the clock. This exercise is something I was challenged with as a way to practice quieting my mind in order to hear God better. Honestly, I’m terrible at it. But I will say that at least attempting this has helped me in focusing on God and prepare my heart before prayer or reading the Bible.
- Journaling could be another helpful way to get thoughts organized so they can get out of your head, freeing up space to be more present and listen more.
- Ask a friend how well they feel listened to by you and what you can do to listen better to them. Apologize for the ways you’ve hurt them by not listening well.
- Put away your phones when you’re trying to have meaningful conversations with God and others.
- Ask God for help! Because God is the best listener possible and has the patience and power to speak into our lives even through our busy days/distracted minds (Psalm 103:8). No one is perfect, and like I said, it’s HARD to turn off our minds completely and just listen.
What do you think would happen if we were able to finally quiet ourselves to listen intently to God every day? Do you think we would hear Him? Do you think we’d feel more connected to Him? Do you think He would reveal things in our lives that we would have missed had we not been listening? And would our relationships with people grow if we committed to becoming better listeners?
Friends, I believe this answer to these questions is yes. And I believe we can do it. Step by step, give it a shot and trust God to work. I encourage you to join me in attempting, by the grace of God, to become a better listener. And in doing so, love the people around me, and God, all the more.