This writing from SIA Founder Del Anderson was excerpted in our latest newsletter. I am sharing the full piece here.
Since listening is one of the less developed areas in my own life, an article by Morton T. Kelsey has helped me greatly. I believe Lucile [my wife] is one of God’s outstanding listeners, and I have observed the many people she has been able to help through this gift.
In the past, I have not recognized and acknowledged my own need to learn and practice this gift of God’s: listening. Since reading Kelsey’s essay, I am beginning to take responsibility and to be aware of my need to practice learning to really listen to people.
Two Scripture quotations set the tone: “The Lord is in God’s holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before God.” (Hab. 2:20), and “Be still and know that I AM God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Morton Kelsey says, “Unless we listen to human beings, we do not know what they are. So we treat them by what we think they are rather than what they really are. In such cases, we project either positive or negative elements of ourselves upon other human beings and try to force them into the pattern of what we think they ought to be. This may be a kind of communication with ourselves, but it is certainly no communication with the other person and no basis for real relationship.”
Kelsey further says, “There is no other way to learn to listen to God except by learning to listen to human beings.” This was a shocker for me. Then I ask myself, “What is listening?” It is surely listening in a silent, active, non-judgmental, sensitive, and loving way, with a caring heart and mind, and a receptive, alive, awareness.
I am becoming aware now that as I talk, I am not listening. In Scripture, St. James says some very critical things about the lack of rational control of our tongues. Often this uncontrolled talk is to cover our shyness and insecurity.
Then, how do I become silent as I listen to others? I allow myself to be silent with other people, silent not only in speech but also in my inner response, an inner silence. I neither agree nor disagree with what is said. As I really listen it opens the way for people to be what they are.
Listening does not control nor censor. As I listen, I am learning to feel secure in my own beliefs and not feel threatened. I must develop an inner security if I want to listen deeply. Thus, this unfolding process is growing and strengthening me, through God’s mysterious chemistry of God’s Spirit.
As I am guided by Spirit and listen creatively, I am being given greater assurance, faith, and confidence. I start listening as an act of will, and then God is enlarging my faith and confidence. I need not always remain silent. I may ask questions or amplify and clarify what is being said.
Listening is love in action. It is one level of prayer. Listening assists me to penetrate through my human ego and “hear the Spirit of God which dwells in the heart of every person.” Real listening is a religious experience. It is awesome; one method of worship.
As I said before, listening has been one of the missing links in my spiritual growth. Though I spend time daily listening to God, alone in the Silence, I have failed to realize the need for me to listen to people, even on a superficial level, as they begin to talk. I need to listen to their small concerns, their interests, desires, and hopes. There is no other way we Christians may become a family of God, a redemptive fellowship. As we listen to one another, slowly and gently, we, the one speaking and the listener, move into a deeper, more sensitive level of being.
When one is really listened to, they feel of value, new hopes are raised: perhaps there is another who cares and understands after all. No one can really believe that another person cares about them until that person will listen.
As we “feel” the pain of the other, we do bear their burden with them. Surely, this is what Jesus, the Christ, does for us. We can only know each other as we know each other’s darkness as well as our light.
Now, we are in a position to be used by God in God’s Healing Light and the process of recognizing, acknowledging, affirming, and claiming the Christhood within each other. Then we are God-bearers for and with each other. How awesome! What a mystery, what depth of each human soul!
The questions we may ask are how can we live and deal creatively with a person we do not know? How can we know someone to whom we have not listened? “The ability to listen is a prerequisite to love," says Kelsey. "All creative human relationship is based upon listening.” I am being “called” to be a creative listener. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN!