Collaboration 1: Listen


Can you love as a witness? Can you be a listener rather than a savior?
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Transcript of Video:

In my experience, community is healing and loving by how people come alongside and witness my experience. Witness my wounds. Witness my grief. Witness me right where I am. Often Jesus has done something inside that is freeing and liberating and life-giving and I then want to share. And it’s the person who comes alongside and listens and acknowledges my pain, my hurt, all that I’m feeling, whatever I am able to share who collaborates with Jesus, who does further healing with Jesus, by witnessing my experience. Letting me be honest and open by another being a safe and trustworthy person.

I think one of the challenges for us is that we think that it has to be someone special. That they have to be in a particular role or have particular training to be able to love or collaborate in this way. But anyone can listen. It is a skill. It can be worked at. This desire not to fix but to be with. To stand with another that they might withstand the world, withstand their experience. It’s choosing to be alongside maybe not saying a word but showing that you’re really there with them that enables another to heal. That gives loves to another. You can do it. Anyone can do it. All of us together listening, loving another, we bring healing to the world. We collaborate with Jesus who came in next to us. We are with Jesus in loving the world.

– Br. Luke Ditewig


  1. David Holt on April 7, 2014 at 02:51

    I have been trained in CPE to listen/. However as a child I I had to listen to my mothers complaints many of which were inappropriate for me to hear eg anti my father. So now when I listen I like to get my few cents worth of talk in too rather than be passive and pay for it later

  2. Sr. Donna Morgan on April 4, 2014 at 11:55

    I used to want to fix everyone and everything. Through the grace of God, I am healing from this. Scripture tells us to use words only when they are necessary. Listening and witnessing is the epitome of loving.

  3. Linda Moore on April 3, 2014 at 06:54

    As a chaplain who works with trauma patients/families, i listen every day. I do what i can to bring the presence of God to a patient that is hurting, a family that is grieving, and people who are lost, wondering why these things happen. It is my calling, my daily journey and my heart. I am struggling with finding someone to listen to me. I am struggling to find someone to hold my hand on those tough days and hear my cries.

  4. Jane Anne Gleason on April 2, 2014 at 16:29

    This is a wonderful message that reminds me that I can always be a listener BUT, I can never be a savior. Jesus is the savior. I can be his hands and ears in the world and for those I with but only He can be the Savior.

  5. TM on April 2, 2014 at 09:36

    I like to think I’m a good listener in some instances. (If you ask my husband, I’m not sure he’d agree!) But I have a reputation at work and church as being someone who sits back and listens to all sides, then takes time to synthesize that info. I then can give back a concise summary and offer my opinion. I don’t think I’m a “fixer”, but more of a contributor. I can sit back if my viewpoint is not taken. I do need to not talk over my kind hubby so often, though. We often wrong those we’re closest to, I suppose! I guess that’s why we don’t always listen for God – we take Him for granted, or don’t take the time to tune in.

  6. Marilyn Weir on April 1, 2014 at 08:02

    Yes, I can and have. I have come to realize/learn that being a good listener is very much about being present with the person who is sharing. The most important part is standing by that person – being with them – being present and listening. It is so powerful.
    I’ve been blessed to be on both sides of this dynamic. When someone is truly and wholy present to listen, there is the possibility for great healing for the person who is sharing and ‘confessing’. God truly lives in this space.

  7. LindaR on March 31, 2014 at 19:42

    To stand with so another can withstand… What a beautiful kind of love! Someone has done that for me. The love and patience and valuing have come through clearly as gifts of comfort and strength and healing, even in the worst of times. He could have walked away because of fear he wasn’t sure how to help, but somehow he understood standing with me was exactly what could help, both in itself, and as a reminder God loves and cares for us. I believe God’s love is what calls and empowers our compassion. I’m asking God to help me learn how to offer others “not alone!”

  8. Ross Bliss on March 31, 2014 at 19:16

    Wow, you’ve just summarized so much of the value I’m experiencing in Clinical Pastoral Education. The privilege of listening to someone else in their pain can take you both onto sacred ground.

  9. Beth on March 31, 2014 at 19:12

    For me, discernment of knowing when to simply listen, and for that person to know they are heard, is all that is needed, but sometimes to be a guide to someone more knowledgeable of what ever the concern is also needed. What comes to my mind is “The Serenity Prayer”

  10. Tammy Lee on March 31, 2014 at 16:42

    Listening to God is what in fact saves us and yet sometimes I think we get enraged with God when God listens rather than fixes…..others have expressed it and I will add my voice to the mix….great insight Brother Luke….I am an action oriented person….I want solutions not further discussions of the problem….the lesson for me is that there is only one Savior and last time anyone checked it wasn’t me fixed upon the cross. My experience in parish ministry has suggested on more than one occasion how angry people get when we as priests don’t or cant fix the problem presented to us either by individuals or by the churches we serve….perhaps folks don’t want to take responsibility, we need to feel that Messianic identity… or if they do want to take responsibility they don’t want to have to do everything that is necessary to change a situation and yet the truth is unless we are in enough pain we don’t change…perhaps the lesson too is that when I am in enough pain from not being able to fix something I will welcome the healing power of listening for us all

  11. Mary on March 31, 2014 at 16:39

    My husband did this for me today. It’s such a blessing, such a blessing.

    • Win on April 1, 2014 at 07:24

      See Bob’s link above… It’s funny!

  12. Kathleen Sheehy on March 31, 2014 at 16:02

    Listen and witness. I don’t often consider the concept of witness. That is also very affirming to another person, to witness what they are dealing with, thereby giving it weight and consideration. I hear you, but I also see you, what you are going through; I don’t dismiss or minimize or analyze it.

  13. charles on March 31, 2014 at 15:28

    In the Incarnation, we are given the story of a God who does not fix, but rather enters into our suffering, walks beside us, listens to us. This is not easy to explain to someone who is suffering. The message today reminds me that I am not called to explain God to those who suffer, only to be His presence to them, listening, walking beside, suffering with.

  14. Kathryn on March 31, 2014 at 15:19

    Enable healing….what a powerful concept. It takes me right out of the picture and makes it all about the person I am listening to. Wonder what the world would be like if all of us expanded our capacity for listening and enabling the healing of Christ. Therapists might go out of business 🙂

  15. Lisa on March 31, 2014 at 15:06

    What catches me in today’s word. “Listen” is that my desire to fix others comes too often out of my deeper desire to control them. I need them to fit into MY picture, MY story, MY reality. That need is an illusion.

    To stand with so that someone can withstand goes way deeper than fixing, controlling. or saving. “Stand with” is two separate words. And rightly so; for when
    I stand with another person, I am not jumping into their life, moving the pieces of their reality around to my satisfaction. I am standing next to them so that they can withstand (become one in themselves to meet) whatever pain, sadness or difficulty is set before them. And sometimes I am also witness to joy, delight, and contentment.

    The Brothers’ call to listen pulled me out of my ‘fix-it” self rather like a kindly parent separating a wet puppy from the toys in the children’s swimming pool. “Boy was it fun to pounce on that plastic boat, chew on that shovel, and overturn that sand bucket! Well, on second thought, next time I will try running around the pool’s edge, and if one of the children comes out for a rest, I will go over and sit beside him.

  16. MRM on March 31, 2014 at 14:45

    It is as if Jesus just asked that question of me directly. I hope I can, for it may be the next thing the Lord hopes I will learn. For I have always thought I am the fixer, the one that solves the problem, finds the answer. I would like to learn to collaborate with Jesus by listening. Indeed, reading each day the posts in response to these reflections and questions with an effort simply to be open and take them in . . . perhaps it is a beginning.

  17. Bob on March 31, 2014 at 14:03
    • Win on April 1, 2014 at 07:15

      Ya made me laugh!! 😉

  18. Deacon Susan in California on March 31, 2014 at 14:01

    An outstanding commentary today – thank you Br Luke. I minister in Kairos Prison Ministry where we say “Listen Listen Love Love” and “Who is the church? We are the church.” I love to minister in this simple listening style. I am not a spiritual director or anyone specially trained in psychology . I just listen and try to be church alongside the precious women inside the institution.

  19. Bob on March 31, 2014 at 13:56

    Part of my life is working in the end-of-life care of children and young people. This act, the witness to the pain is as important as morphine.

  20. Win on March 31, 2014 at 13:32

    I find this place to be a very loving and healing place.
    Thank you all.

  21. Martha on March 31, 2014 at 12:50

    Br. Luke, Your presence standing alongside in silence at my Monastery retreat communicated healing, peace and love. Martha

  22. Gloria Veltman on March 31, 2014 at 12:36

    Listening, without trying to fix, is something I have been working on for some time. My present opportunities for working on the listening part have come through several people who can & will talk on and on and on even repeating themselves without realizing they are doing so. I just try to listen & occasionally make encouaging sounds. But it’s not easy!

  23. John Okerman on March 31, 2014 at 12:11

    Listening is easy to learn and very difficult to do. I want to “fix” that person and today’s lesson is profound. We don’t have to “fix” everyone who shares with us and often don’t know the solutions. Simply listening is enough. After today’s lesson I must strive to (1) be a good listener (avoid the “send” mode!) and (2) LISTEN!

  24. Barbara Harris on March 31, 2014 at 12:07

    As a nurturer by “trade” (mother, grandmother, day care worker) it is difficult to step away and be a listener and not a savior. Interestingly enough, it is my fellow caregivers that have taught me that it is not our job to fix everything, it is simply our job to listen sometimes. What a relief to know that! It makes the burden so much lighter.

  25. Patterson Moore on March 31, 2014 at 11:18

    Thank you, Brother Luke, for sharing your experience and your wisdom. I am taking your words to heart. Gratefully, Pat.

  26. Jennie M Anderson on March 31, 2014 at 11:10

    As a child of a recovering alcoholic, I learned early on to listen to the disfunction in order to try and inject function… to care-take and to fix. As an extrovert, and a construction worker for many years, I learned to do… Now, as a priest and as I look for my next call, I am answering the invitation to take time to heal and reset practices of self care. I recognize that to listen and to be with another person on the journey doesn’t ask that I fix or that I care-take, it asks that I be… and then be with… Thank you Brother Luke

  27. barbara frazer lowe on March 31, 2014 at 10:59

    Thankfulness to you, Br. Luke. So applicable, everywhere, today. Clear pathway for us no only to pray to give, but receive from our fellowmen. God’s gift of listening; eliminate ourselves controlling. Barbara

  28. MSamuelsen on March 31, 2014 at 10:48

    Opportunities for listening are all around me. So much listening is needed today. I am growing elephantine ears.

  29. kc on March 31, 2014 at 10:45

    I do both, but I must try harder to listen without attempting to tell someone else how to solve their problem. In my own experience, this is the least helpful way of listening. Yes, anyone can be a witness and just that is helpful

  30. Cush on March 31, 2014 at 10:42

    When I felt called to be part of the healing team in our parish I found the just listening to be very difficult — however, as time went on I was able, with God’s help, to get the desire to fix everything a bit under control. All I can say is what a gift and how much easier it is to be part of that team and let God do his/her job. My job is to listen — God’s job is to act.

  31. gwedhen nicholas on March 31, 2014 at 10:08

    Yes I can listen. I don’t talk much, so I have become good at listening. I would like to be open enough that people felt they could confide in me. That it would be safe for them to do so. Lord, help me to be there for those who need to talk.

  32. Lorna Harris on March 31, 2014 at 09:52

    I really enjoyed this post. I have been training as a spiritual director for the past two years – a wonderful experience. Not fixing and not judging are such important hallmarks. I like the idea of being alongside and the literal sense of with-standing – so important in showing love and care.

  33. Michael on March 31, 2014 at 09:35

    Last fall I was praying for God to send me a friend, because I felt the lack of friendships in my life. Instead of giving me a friend who could be there for me and listen to all my problems, he called me to be a deeper friend, by being there when a friend was faced with serious health issues and needed a friend. I couldn’t do anything about his health issues but be there, listen, and pray for and with him, but this has been such a transformative process both in his life and mine. I learned that to get a friend you need to be a friend.

    • Stephanie on April 8, 2014 at 12:02

      This story put a big smile on my face because I think I recognize the pattern in my own life. It seems it is in serving others that God answers our petitions for ourselves. Thank you for sharing it.

  34. lise on March 31, 2014 at 09:22

    I know I have appreciated the listening in my life. I have to make a conscious decision to not to try and fix everything. Sometimes I just ask “did you want to vent? or were you looking for assistance?” not in a mean way but sometimes we just need to listen and that’s OK. I also have tried to be more comfortable offering support without knowing what to say and sometimes that means not saying anything, but the alternative was that I wasn’t approaching the person if I didn’t have something useful to say.

    • Deacon Susan in California on March 31, 2014 at 14:03

      Sometimes I find it is good to say “How did you hope I could help you?”

  35. Susan on March 31, 2014 at 09:05

    It is difficult for me not to be a “fixer”. That was a major part of being a mother of young children and a teacher. When a problem arose, it was my job to fix it.
    Now I am working on listening to just listen. I try to acknowledge what the person is saying/feeling, project my love for them, and just listen.

    • Marianne on March 31, 2014 at 13:13

      I agree with Susan; as a creative person and problem solver, I forget that my first duty is to love and listen rather than fix or create solutions. I really like today’s question as I’ve never thought about the term “withstand” and how standing with and beside someone in their pain helps them to withstand it. Thanks to all who have shared during this Lenten exercise. Blessings and Peace. ~Marianne

  36. Pam on March 31, 2014 at 09:04

    Excellent reflection! I shared it with fellow members of the healing prayer ministry at my church. Just because we don’t see our prayers for healing answered in the way that we expect and hope does not mean that healing has not occurred. It also strikes me that what you describe is very close to a description of compassion (“suffering with”). We can’t always “fix” things (and that is our first impulse), but, as you say, to “stand with, choosing to be alongside” is another way to “bring healing to the world.”

  37. Julie Watt Faqir on March 31, 2014 at 08:28

    I think it is part of society today for all of us to try to be “fixers,” yet I know rationally that there are a lot of things I cannot fix, or make better and that is not my purpose here. I CAN listen to people’s needs and hurts though and offer a shoulder and this is how I can love as a witness.

  38. Christopher Barnhart on March 31, 2014 at 08:13

    Being a good listenter takes empathy, it requires us to be silent which can be difficult because to often we think we have all the answers. But in reality there may not be any answers. But the real answer is in the quietness of the moment, the holding of someone’s hands, of putting your arms around someone, of hugging someone. Of just saying that you understand. Soloman asked God for an understanding heart. This is an expression of our love for others.

  39. steve on March 31, 2014 at 07:51

    Traveling down the road, sharing my brother’s and sister’s pain by being there with them is sometimes showing Christ’s love more deeply than anything else I know how to do. Praying for them silently as I sit and listen somehow transmits faith and encouragement they so deeply need to feel confidence that our Savior is present with and for them and they are not alone.

  40. Bob O. on March 31, 2014 at 07:47

    I need to work on being a better listener and today I wil do that when the opportunity presents itself. I will make this a conscious and prayerful a part of my Lentern discipline.

  41. Roben on March 31, 2014 at 07:37

    That was so beautiful and timely as, and so welcome to my heart. I can try to be a witness, and will try.

  42. Br. Stephen Francis Arnold, OSB on March 31, 2014 at 07:24

    Love envelopes those you encounter, if you let it. And the power of listening is a shoulder to lean on, even invisibly, but still a solid structure for those you who need it in time of need.

  43. Christopher Epting on March 31, 2014 at 06:55

    At our recent House of Bishops’ meeting, the Bishop of Nebraska shared a powerful meditation in which he acknowledged his feelings of helplessness sometimes in the face of small congregations in dying towns who are struggling to survive. Sometimes,he said, all I can do is say “I’m sorry…I don’t know what to do to fix this…but I’m here with you.” Listening, rather than trying to be savior, is what he was talking about. Sometimes, I think that’s enough.

  44. Michael Kolenick on March 31, 2014 at 06:52

    Thank you, Brother Luke; that was a profound statement you made. I promise that I will do my best to be a better listener.

  45. Jim on March 31, 2014 at 06:17

    I think just listening is something I need to work on daily. If someone brings a problem to my attention, my first thought is “How can I fix that for you?” or “How can I help you fix that?” In some cases, I recognize that I can’t do either of those things and all I can do is listen. But, that almost makes me feel powerless and wonder why I couldn’t have the skills or knowledge to help resolve the problem. Loving as a witness will take effort but is probably well worth it.

  46. Mary Caulfield on March 31, 2014 at 06:04

    “Listener rather than a savior” is a powerful phrase. In the midst of so much illness, grief, and need among family and friends, I’ve felt guilty that I can’t be the one who swoops in and magically makes it all better. Sometimes all I can do is one small thing. It’s important to remember that listening and witnessing help people to remember themselves. And it’s not about fixing or my own self-image as a good person.

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