Outline- Christian Caregiving 2- Listening
· Listening as a Christian Caregiver.
· Listening is a constant theme in the Bible. (Prov 17:27-28; Psalm 81; James 1:19, 26; 3:5-7, Mark 4:9).
· So who are we listening to?
o In the Bible, listening to God (revealed word in Scripture or through the prophets).
§ We want to learn to listen to God in prayer, through Scripture, as well as other ways. (see “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard)
o It also speaks about listening to teachers
o general listening. (Proverbs 18:13)
· Hearing people in pain-
o We learn to listen to God in the midst of listening to someone who is in pain.
o The disciplines that make us better listeners of God will also makes us better listeners of others. (contemplative prayer, or the discipline of silence)
· Caring for people in their pain is a holy place. Jesus says when we care for people in their needs that we have done it for him (Matt 25). There is a mysterious encounter with God when we enter into a person’s pain.
· Remember the mystery of the person you are listening to.
o Created in God’s image
o a person Christ has died for.
o God desires eternal life for this person- a life where they will grow into a more and more glorious being reflecting Christ’s image into creation.
§ CS Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors” (The Weight of Glory).
o Think about any person you know- even the most dull person. No number of words could ever sum that person up. There will always be something missing that we can’t necessarily explain. The Orthodox theologian Vladmir Lossky said, “There will always remain an ‘irrational residue’ which escapes analysis and which cannot be expressed in concepts; it is the unknowable depth of things, that which constitutes their true, indefinable essence.” (in The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church).
· There is also a simplicity to human beings- all human motivation can be broken down into either an attempt to avoid pain, or to find happiness.
· There are some stumbling blocks to listening
o schedule enough time to listen to the person well
o ‘Noise’ can be a stumbling block.
§ external distractions like a TV, or being in a busy place. Or maybe we have hearing troubles and need a hearing aid.
§ inner distractions (or inner noise). This might be an attitude, a prejudice, a belief, etc.,. The best way to deal with inner noise is just being aware that it is there.
· It is when we are not aware of it that it tends to catch us. Michael Nichols, who wrote The Lost Art of Listening, wrote “genuine listening means suspending memory, desire, and judgment- and, for a few moments at least, existing for the other person”. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt 7:1-4).
o Interruptions- We might interrupt the person we are listening to.
§ We might have a “profound insight” that just can’t wait,
§ We finish a person’s sentences.
§ We might be dominating the conversation to alleviate our own anxiety and feed our own need for control.
§ We might change the topic.
§ In general we should try to talk less. If we are talking more than the person we are listening to then we are probably speaking out of our own internal anxiety or need to control.
· To listen well it is important to make sure you can actually
o hear the person,
o then to really attend to what they are saying by attempting to understand and asking clarifying questions.
§ Listen to what is important- meaning and emotion.
o It’s also important to try to put yourself in their place. Try to see things from their point of view.
· Listen with more than just our ears- Our attention will often be where our eyes are.
o focusing our attention
o we need to also listen with our eyes by noticing the person’s body language.
§ They might fidget a lot when they talk about a certain topic,
§ They might make less eye contact.
· Danger of texting and email- no body language.
· The kinds of things we say.
o Repeat back or sum up what someone is saying to make sure we understand.
o Affirm them or encourage them. We can also ask questions-especially open-ended questions (one that you can’t answer with a “yes” or a “no”. For example, you might ask, “how did you feel when that happened to you?”
o Encourage people to express how they are feeling because sometimes people don’t want to bother you with how they are feeling, or they feel like they are being selfish by talking about themselves. But, it is important that we all have safe places to talk about these things.
o Recognize that as we get close to real raw emotion that anxiety will increase and we might have to be careful about not avoiding it, or notice when the other person attempts to avoid it.
· Listening to a person’s soul means to listen for meaning and purpose.
o Listening as a Christian Caregiver doesn’t always mean listening for churchy words.
o We might hear practical physical needs, emotional needs, mental needs, or social needs, but hovering over all of it and tying it all together are the spiritual needs. Spirituality is the integrating holistic element that ties a person’s life together and helps them live tomorrow.
o What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of MY life? Why am I here? Why is this happening to me? What does God think of me? What is right and wrong in this situation? Why does God allow suffering?
o These question can make people uncomfortable. As Christians, it is important that we are safe people to talk about these things with. They need to trust that we won’t flip to a different topic or crack a joke when they share a deep hurt with us that makes us uncomfortable.
o Clichés often contain truth, but they can also be shallow and can shut down a conversation. It would be better to not say anything or to encourage them to elaborate.
· “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” -David Augsburger
· We have to be “governed by that simple but countercultural rule, ‘No fixing, no saving, no advising, no setting each other straight’“ Parker Palmer.
· Palmer assumes people can be listened into understanding their own issues, and when they are given space to be deeply listened to, the Holy Spirit often becomes their own inner Counselor- convicting them and correcting them where needed- Often without us saying a word.
· “the best service I can render when you speak to me about such a struggle is to hold you faithfully in a space where you can listen to your inner teacher” P. Palmer