Listen to Others

Listen to Others

This short clip is from the Disney/Pixar movie called “Inside Out”. (If you haven’t seen it, this is a great week to watch the whole movie!) Joy is the blue-haired character in the green dress who is more exasperated than joyful in this clip. Sadness is the all-blue character with glasses. Notice how they each deal with their friend Bing Bong (the pink “elephant” character) here:

It seems pretty obvious that what Sadness does in this clip (sitting down and listening to Bing Bong express all of his feelings) is the right thing to do. However, isn’t it pretty much automatic for us to behave like Joy does? How often do we tell people “to look on the bright side” or say “everything’s going to be alright” or distract people from the situation entirely?

It is a challenge to sit and stay with someone who is sad or anxious or angry. It can feel uncomfortable for us or we might not understand just why people are reacting the way that they are. But, if you can stay and listen, you become a safe place for another. In the simple act of listening to whatever that person has to say, you show that it is okay for them to feel what they are feeling and that they don’t have to put on any masks with you (you’ll accept them even if they aren’t happy or positive or motivated).

“One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” (John 5:5-6, NIV)

Have you ever noticed all of the questions Jesus asks the people who approach him? I’ll admit that I (Dixie) often get exasperated by them. I think in my head, “Of course, they want to ‘be healed’, Jesus! Why are you asking that?!”

But Jesus listened to people. He also encouraged truth and authenticity. He saw people just as they were—and in his day, even though it would have been the culturally accepted and expected response, he did not shun the people who were unclean, unworthy, did not fit societal expectations, etc.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19, NIV)

Practice:
How have you been listening to others through the COVID-19 crisis? It is mighty easy for us to either be bothered by other’s complaining or wish they’d see things our way. It is much harder to acknowledge that people respond their own way and (for those with whom we have relationship) to be a safe place for them to talk about all that they feel.

What does it look like for you to really listen well to others this week? To be more curious and less judgmental. Here are two suggestions:

  1.  As you engage on social media, before you respond, listen in two parts:
      – What is the person saying and where might that reaction be coming from?
      – What am I hearing and where might my reaction to that be coming from?
  2.  While meeting in person is discouraged right now, we can still call, FaceTime, or text.
       – Check in with a friend this week. Ask them if they have the time for a chat and then find out how they are doing. Remember that you don’t have to jump to fix anything for them but your presence and listening is itself a gift.

Will You Let Me Be Your Servant.
Listen to this song from our hymnal. Meditate on the words. Remember it is often harder to let others be your servant. Are you the one who needs a listening ear this week or someone to get groceries/supplies for you? We are called to be each other’s servants. Have the courage to reach out.

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