Points to Ponder: To Be Heard is to Be Loved

Points to Ponder
To Be Heard is to Be Loved

"Can you hear me now?" If you have a cell phone, you know that line. Getting connected, passing through "dead zones," suffering a "dropped call," or being able to hear the other person, but they can't hear you; it's all frustrating. Communication is vital to healthy relationships. The marvels of technology that allow people to connect quickly also annoy us because the disruptions can be frequent and just as quick. Everyone wants to be heard. Do you ever feel like your cell phone is you enemy? Right in the middle of an important conversation, the call is dropped. You don't know how long you went on pouring out your soul into dead air. In anger, you curse the phone. (If you're not one to curse, you strongly admonish it, maybe call it a name: "Stupid phone!") It touches a nerve in you when you feel like you've been cut off, not heard, or ignored altogether.
The failures of our technology reveal deeper truths about us as people. We rely heavily on these gadgets to do the work that only we can do. We think we can multi-task, even in our relationships. A cell phone tucks under the ear while (unbeknownst to the caller) you are typing a letter or playing a game on your computer. Meanwhile, the microwave is cooking supper and the TV is babysitting the kids. Think of how much mental attention and energy would be required to do each of those things well. Focused listening takes the most. Why can't we just give undivided attention to the friend on the phone? Why can't the item on the computer wait?
Human beings need relationships. We are wired for this; cell phones and computers are not. They allow us to carry on relationships on a superficial, utilitarian level. But we are missing something.
In all the relationships you have right now, which ones have any measure of depth? Whom do you really trust? Who can really trust you? To whom do you go to "unload," to confess, to cry? Who really pays attention to you? And likewise, who feels that they can safely come to you?
The question is not, "Can you hear me now?", but rather, "Are you listening to me now?" Listening is an art which does not come to us naturally. It takes energy and a deliberate focus on the other. People long to find someone who will genuinely listen to them. Often they are surprised when they do.
Sometimes I'll be on the phone with someone and after several moments of talking to me they'll say, "Are you still there?" I reply, "Yes...I'm listening to you." "Oh." I think people expect to be interrupted. How often do you find yourself speed talking, attempting to rush your point to the other person because you know they'll cut you off? Probably change the topic. Do you ever wonder if your friend really heard what you said? Do you tend to do that to people? Reflect back on conversations you've had; do you do most of the talking most of the time? So many conversations are like tennis matches, the back and forth action of two people talking about themselves; neither one really listening to what the other said.
Do you ever just ask questions to understand what the person is thinking or feeling? Do you really know the people with whom you work, play, or live near?
Over Thanksgiving, I realized that though my father-in-law's friend has been part of our holiday gatherings for a couple of years, I barely know her. We enjoy her company. But I quickly figured out why I hardly know her. She constantly redirects conversation away from herself. Not that she's ultra private; it's just that she'd rather hear about your life than talk about herself. She asks questions, takes an interest, and remembers what you told her months ago at the last gathering.
It's a good self-check when you're in a conversation. Have you asked a question? Have you allowed the person to complete their thought without interrupting? Or do you say, "Not to change the subject..." and then change the subject? It is a great act of love to forget yourself and get into the world of another by simply listening.
"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another...Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion" (Romans 12:10, 15-16).
"Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4).

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles (and sermons) are also found at www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com. Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45am and 7:50pm, both days.