This article was originally published in Timbrel, Fall 2017.
Do you hear it? Ticking, engines, chirps, music. Sadness, fear, tension, grief. Inspiration, community, satisfaction, reciprocity.
On my deck, I hear the first set of sounds. I hear the next two sets when I am in a different kind of listening mode, that of prayerful and careful attention to another while they speak.
This kind of deep listening is thoroughly Christian and quite counter-cultural.
Compassionate listening is one of the areas of Sister Care for College Women that is most appreciated. We offer guidelines, do some coaching, and then have the young women experience intentional care with each other in pairs. Here are some of the phrases I encourage them to use as they listen deeply.
“Let me make sure I understand you.” Seeking to fully understand shows how you value the other person. Paraphrasing what they said is one way to ensure this happens.
“Tell me more.” Inviting more sharing indicates you are available for another layer of information.
“Nothing you say will be shared with others.” We need to feel safe with each other.
“I am here.” You are fully present with the other person. Your body is still and you provide encouragement and calmness through non-verbal communication.
“I will wait until you are ready to share.” Show them that there is no rush; you are a patient listener.
“Although I really want to offer a fix, I will only listen.” Listen and ask clarifying questions only.
“Let me be as Christ to you.” Your devotion to your friend is evident.
Being a generous listener is our access to understanding each other. These days, we are constantly being bombarded by texts, tweets and pod casts, and our capacity for concentration and contemplation is weakened. It becomes difficult to pay attention to the subtle, and the quiet. Listening can help us learn to build bridges in the midst of polarities. It can slow us down so that we are able to consider a third way in times of conflict.
Listening is love. It may be the most meaningful gift your friend might receive in any
Listening may help us acknowledge the gentle nudges of God’s spirit that surface through our friendships and conversations with our sisters in Christ.
Let’s go deep!
Marlene Harder Bogard is the executive director for Mennonite Women USA. Previously, she served as Minister of Christian Formation and Resource Library Director for the Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA for 25 years while living in Newton, Kansas. Marlene cares deeply about Christian faith formation in all stages of life and is drawn to help folks develop ways of connecting with God in creative and meaningful ways. Her background includes serving on the Dove’s Nest board, Spiritual Director training, and teaching youth ministry at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.