Listening to My Wife

To know is to listen. If I want to get to know people, I must draw them out; and if I draw them out, I must learn to listen.

Listening, though, requires patience and discipline. It is not natural, at least not for me. I would rather tell than listen, and every time I do that, I forfeit the joy of really knowing another person. I have become a hurried listener, eagerly waiting for that pause that will allow me to insert my thoughts into a conversation. 

My wife, Marilyn, on the other hand, is an entirely different kind of listener. 

When we are around people in Bible studies, small groups, or visiting with friends, I know what my wife will do. As a friend takes a chance and begins to open up, Marilyn will often ask a question and reflect that she is listening with an affirming nod of the head. . She has this intuitive sense of listening in a way I cannot. While other people seem to listen for facts and information, Marilyn listens intently for a person’s experiences, like she is assembling a mosaic in her mind of the things that have shaped this person into who he or she is. She wants to know people, not know about them. If I listen in black and white; she listens in color.

By watching Marilyn, I have realized that she listens three different ways. She is a wide listener, a slow listener, and a deep listener.

Wide listeners keep the door of their minds wide open to hear all of what a person needs to say. Marilyn has learned to avoid the trap of expectations, giving people the freedom to say whatever is true, not what is expected.

Slow listeners are not in a hurry to know. Marilyn listens according to others’ needs, not the clock. There are just some things that only emerge with time. Slow listening shows respect and quietly communicates that others’ thoughts are worth waiting for.

Deep listeners listen for what emanates from the basement of the heart. The reason we are to watch over our heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23) is because it is the source of all spiritual life. 

I want to become a better listener. It will take patience and discipline. I don’t think it will come by reading a book, but by actually practicing it. 

I am learning to listen . . . by listening to a very accomplished listener.

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