The fruit of a mature spirituality is to be an incarnational presence to other people. It was for Jesus. It is, I believe, for all his followers, especially for those of us in leadership.
The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus’ interactions with individuals: Matthew, Nathaniel, a prostitute, Nicodemus, a blind man, a Samaritan woman and many others. When the rich, young ruler came up to him, Jesus “looked at him and loved him.” He listened. He was present, never in a rush or distracted. He took the time to explore stories.
When is the last time someone said to you, “Let me tell you about those Christians—they are fantastic listeners! I have never seen a group of people more sincerely interested to know my world, who are curious, who ask questions, who actually listen to me!”
Listening is not simply a key discipleship issue. It is a core leadership issue. Give yourself this little listening test. Circle all the statements you can affirm.
- My close friends would describe me as a responsive listener.
- When people are upset with me, I am able to listen to them without being defensive.
- I listen not only to the words people say but also to the feelings behind their words and their body language.
- I have little interest in judging other people or quickly giving my opinion to them.
- I am able to validate another person’s feelings with empathy.
- I am aware of my defensive mechanisms in stressful conversations (e.g., appeasing, ignoring, blaming, distracting).
- I am profoundly aware of how the family I was raised in has shaped my present listening style.
- I ask for clarification when listening rather than “fill in the blanks” or make assumptions.
- I don’t interrupt to get my point across when another person is speaking.
- I give people my undivided attention when they are talking to me.
If you circled eight to 10 statements, you are an outstanding listener. If you circled six or seven, you are very good; four or five, good; three or fewer, poor—“you are in trouble.” If you want to be really brave, after you score yourself, ask your spouse or someone close to you to rate you as a listener. You may be surprised.
Pete Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, and the author of two best-selling books: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church. This story was originally posted on Scazzero’s blog at EmotionallyHealthy.org.