When was the last time someone said to you, “Let me tell you about those Christians–they are fantastic listeners! I have never seen a group of people more interested to know my world, curious, asking questions–listening to me!”
What a great question that we all know the answer to! We know Christians have a bad rap when it comes to the way they treat people. But the real bad news is that, if we are honest, we know that most of the things are true.
So what will it take for us to be better lovers of people; Christians and non-Christians alike? We have to learn how to enter into peoples’ world. We have to learn how to really listen.
I have a degree, and I had so many classes in five years that, at some point, stressed listening skills. I don’t know that I can count how many role-playing exercises I have done in classes and student leadership training. I don’t know how many times I have done these things yet still listen so poorly.
As listeners, we are taught to enter their story and never be thinking of your own agenda or reply. To truly enter into their skin and situation we are taught these things tirelessly. Most of the time we enter their world long enough to attempt fixing them. Never mind loving them!
Think of the moments you wanted to be listened to most. A lot of those times were when I struggled through my faith. I would talk to friends I respected, and I was rarely listened to. How did I remember those times? I read about a girl in the book I just finished, and Scazzero writes about this girl: “But she wasn’t asking for advice. She longed for me to join her and see how hard the world looks when I put on her shoes.”
I can remember feeling just like this on several occasions. I can remember wanting someone to just enter my shoes for a little bit. I didn’t want advice at that moment. In fact, I was a religious studies major too. I knew a lot of the answers they were giving me. I just remember wanting to talk and for someone to come alongside me. I wasn’t looking for advice. But I often got advice. The reason is because we as Christians are not very good listeners. I especially think that the further you get into leadership, the worse we can get at being good listeners. The main reason is because the further I get in Christian leadership, the more I learn and thus the more advice I can give.
The problem with that is that our titles and furthering in ministry and leadership maturity is not an automatic maturing in other areas. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul makes it pretty clear that we can acquire all kinds of spiritual gifts and maturity and still be babies.
I think we have to dive into ourselves and know more and more about who we are, but we also must be willing to enter into others’ skin…not to fix but to love.
That is how we love well.