It can be too easy to make assumptions or presumptions about what we or others need. Br. Keith Nelson explores how listening itself can be an act of loving service.
Transcript: Those of you familiar with the Rule of St. Benedict, will probably know that one of the first words in that document is “listen.” We get this idea of monastic obedience from the Latin, ob audire, to listen.
So I think that in our response to human need by the offering of loving service one thing that strikes me is that I often don’t know precisely what my own needs are, or the needs of another person, unless I stop to actually listen. I’ve noticed that if I make an assumption, or a presumption about what I need in a particular moment, without listening to myself, without listening to my body, without listening to my imagination, my desires, that I can often make a particular connection in a knee-jerk way that isn’t in fact accurate or relevant
So I think that the power of this kind of deep listening with our whole-hearted presence to ourselves, to God, and in particular to other people, is really at the core of responding to human need. I think that amazing things happen when we’re listened to. When someone listens to us with their wholehearted presence, we’re able to identify needs perhaps that we didn’t even know that we had. I think it’s one of the reasons why therapy is so popular and effective in our culture these days, because professional listeners sit down with you, and you have access to this whole world that perhaps you didn’t know about, simply because someone is listening. It’s the same for spiritual direction or spiritual companioning.
And if we think about the relationship to that as an act of loving service, responding to human need by loving service, the listening becomes the way in, to responding and love, because we’ve actually heard what the need is. And because we’ve heard it, we can take a step closer, through the grace of God, and through Christ’s power acting in us, to respond in the ways that we’re able.
A question you might want to ask yourself is, “What’s the ratio or the balance in your life, both in your life with God, as well as in your life of loving service to those around you. What’s the balance between your deep, whole-hearted listening, your posture of listening, your stance of listening, and your speaking?”
– Br. Keith Nelson
Question: What is the balance between your listening and your speaking?
This week, create your own “God Sighting Map,” which locates God’s presence and activity in your surroundings and in your interactions with others. Start close to home, then move out into your neighborhood and community. Who or what has been a sign of God’s love to you today?