I’m happy to offer you this guest article by Frederic Gray, leader of the Fathers of Faith, Daughters of Excellence Retreat.
Families Need to Listen
Have you ever had an event take place in your life and you knew you would never be the same? You knew because of some statement you heard, book you read or occurrence that took place you would never be the same. It has to me…several times. But I don’t think any of those moments have had quite the same impact on me as the one I will share with you now.
One day, my tenth grade health teacher, Mr. MacFarland, a former Mr. Minnesota, had us answer a series of questions on a sheet of paper. We did this exercise as individuals, quietly, but then we had to answer the questions out loud in front of the whole class. We went down each row in numerical order. When it came time for the question, “I am good at ________,” the girl whose turn it was said, “I am a good listener.”
Mr. MacFarland stopped the class. He said, “Everyone listen to what she said. If you are a good listener, you will never run out of friends.”
WHAT??? Could he be right???
You see, up until that time in my life, I was often very lonely, and had trouble making friends. I was socially awkward more often than not, and I desperately craved the friends everyone else seemed to have.
I HAD to test his theory. So I called a girl that I used to live next door to. After we got beyond, “So why did you call?” and, “Oh, I just called to say hi,” I had nothing to say. So I said the only thing I could think of. “So, um…are there any guys you like?” Boy, did I hit the magic button! She talked, and talked, and talked, and talked…you get the idea.
Two hours later, with me having said a handful of “huhs” and “wows,” she said, “This was fun. Call me tomorrow.”
From that moment on, my life has never been the same. My life changed instantly! From that day, my friends have continued to multiply exponentially. Girls instantly took an interest in me. Adults thought I was respectful. And children loved me. And all of this happened because I listened.
You can imagine my surprise when, after I became a Christian at age 21, I discovered that God actually commands people to be slow to speak and quick to listen. (James 1:19)
So what is the point of all of this?
Well, based on my personal observations and feedback from others, it seems to me the family is a place listening is often neglected. In the family, people often forsake proactive listening and focus on themselves.
Listening is powerful, almost magical. Listening proactively, especially within a family context where we have so many needs, can sooth someone’s anxiety, communicate love, serve as emotional affection, and serves as a calming salve for arguments (Proverbs 15:1).
In addition, when you begin to understand someone through proactive listening, it is much easier to give them the benefit of the doubt. Aren’t we a lot more forgiving when we understand where someone is coming from? Let’s take a look at each of our family members, and let’s be slow to speak, and quick to listen. Let’s change our families for the better by making our home a haven of understanding, rather than a web of mangled assumptions.