Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Your phone is always buzzing and ringing. So many notifications, commercials, emails, deadlines, phone calls, and responsibilities that can make the world feel like its constantly yelling at you. We Orthodox Christians have a high regard for silence and stillness, but one of the best antidotes for this loudness is in fact, listening.
In iconography, the Saints are written with small mouths and bigger ears. This shows us how they spent less time talking and more time listening. How many times have you been in a conversation, and someone is talking to you but all you hear are the roaring thoughts inside your head? The person is talking to you but you heard none of it, so you’re best response is a “huh” a “what?” or a nervous laugh accompanied with a disinterested head nod.
Listening requires attention. You can’t just ‘skim’ a conversation like how you would read af facebook article. You can’t just ‘skip’ the boring parts of a conversation like you could for a podcast. When you are in a conversation you are not just getting words you’re getting emotion, subtilties of expression, and the opportunity to ask questions. When you’re talking with someone and really listening you get connection. That connection is life’s ‘volume button’ where in that moment, the rest of the world quiets down and you can truly listen, allowing you to see through the eyes of another human being.
What do you need to be a good listener?
- Eye contact. The eyes are the window to the soul, and true listening is an act of love, and therefore a labor of the spirt.
- An open heart. Sometimes you are going to hear things that are difficult to accept or hear. If you are armed with an open heart full of love,
- Prayer. When we don’t know what to say, the Holy Spirit will take care of it. Ask for help, and you shall receive, but sometimes just listening to someone’s problems will go a lot further than you’d think.
- Time. Give people your time, and therefore your attention when you want to listen. It is our most valuable resource and giving it to people is definitely worth it.
- Your questions. Questions are how you let others know they are being heard, and can help make conversations dig deeper and deeper.
God listens to us all the time. Prayer is our time to talk, and know that God is the greatest listener of all time, because He knows what is in your heart, not just what you say. Pray to Him, and really open up because He is there with open arms and an even more open heart.
Listening is a human experience that draws us closer together. Find the times in your day where you can listen to the people around you, whether it be a sibling, a friend a roommate or a classmate. All the distractions that are in our lives can make us feel disconnected. Opening our ears and our hearts will open the world up to us.