Listening to Learn or Understand – Rev. Rebecca Craver

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”― Ernest Hemingway

Growing up I remember being told to listen.  It was a thing we had to learn to do in school, at home and at church.  Sometimes the lesson was about how to quiet down so that you could hear someone speaking, or an invitation to focus on instructions. At other times listen was a command to pay attention and “do as I say!” But listening was always a method of teaching. 

As I got older the teachers spent less time teaching me to listen and more time using my attention to teach me about other subjects.  All in all, I think they expected the lesson about listening to have been completed. Now I knew how to listen and the assumption was that I wouldn’t forget how to listen.  But I am wondering now, if over time, we don’t start to forget some of the basics of listening.  Because as we age we are filled with more and more things to say and share.  So the discipline of listening to learn or understand often falls behind–listening to respond. 

On February 3-4, a group of 13 of us met with Rev. Rick Beck to work on learning to listen.  In his work with spiritual direction Rick has put together a process that can help people develop their listening skills, especially around how to spiritually listen to one another.  (If you are interested in the whole process talk with Pastor Rebecca)

He asked us to listen with three questions in mind: 

  • What do I notice about what is being said?
  • What do I appreciate about what is being said?
  • What do I wonder about that i could offer to the person speaking that might help them deepen their thoughts about what they are saying?

These three questions are meant to help us focus on what we are hearing and on the person who is speaking.  They are not meant to begin a conversation–a back and forth of ideas but a focused time of attending to the person who is sharing. 

As we move through the process of discernment for the future life of our congregation I would encourage you to seek out opportunities to listen to one another, not to change someone else’s mind but to listen to understand each other.  As we get closer to discerning a direction and making a decision it will be important that we can hear one another well, in order to best care for each other in the midst of the process. 

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