Reflection 9: Hey! Listen! (Gordon Stirling)
Despite social distancing, technology allows us still the opportunity to listen and to demonstrate care for others — as does being shut in with our nearest and dearest. The following excerpt is taken from an article by Gordon Stirling called ‘Hey! Listen!’. It was published in 1980 as part of his Page 13 series in the Australian Christian. Here, Stirling helps us to recognise the significance of attentive listening:
Hey! Listen! It was early in my ministry. She was brought to me by a friend who had assured her that I could help her with her problem. How little she knew! The story was poured out; a harrowing, complex domestic mess. The more she revealed the more confused I became about what advice to give. Eventually the grim story ended, For once I was silent and bewildered. Groping for some words that would enable me to stall for time, I began to speak. She interrupted me. “I won’t take any more of your time,” she said. “You’ll never know how much you’ve helped me. I know what to do now. Thank you!” I had done nothing but listen to her. That was all that she needed.
“I feel terribly guilty!” It was another occasion and another person. She was weeping copiously. “I feel terribly guilty. I don’t know how to forgive myself,” she sobbed. So it went on with crying, professions of guilt and deep anguish. She had come to the right person, I was an expert on the theology of the forgiveness of sins. I awaited a lull in the crying to explain how God forgives everything. She accepted my word, dried her eyes, and even prayed after me a little prayer accepting God’s forgiveness. It was that easy. Except that the next day she was back worse than ever. I could think of nothing more to say to her. So she sobbed out the whole story that she had needed to tell me the day before.
People need to be listened to: Our neighbourhood, our churches and our families are full of people who need to be listened to by sympathetic, caring, accepting persons. Most of them cannot talk it out with those closest to them because they are emotionally involved. They need people like us who are close enough to be trusted and concerned enough to care. Yet it is because we are so concerned and caring that we want to talk our heads off to them when they need to talk their heads off to us. It is easier for us to talk than it is to listen. Talking gets their burden off our shoulders with a bit of cheap advice. Listening gets their burden onto our shoulders where it belongs … And the chances are that the more we listen in love to people, the more we will hear the voice of God!
GR Stirling Page 13 ‘Hey! Listen!’ Australian Christian 1980/15