“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19
Time and time again, Jesus showed us how to love. He showed us how to have compassion. He showed us how to forgive. Jesus also showed us how we can make others feel safe so that they can feel vulnerable enough to tell us who they really are by listening properly. It is only when we can be truthful with each other, that real meaningful relationships can take shape. When we can be vulnerable and truthful about who we are, and we are not judged, made wrong, or put on the defensive, our brains are shaped for the better.
My dear friend and colleague Dr. Mark Brady, a neuroscience educator, claims that the human brain is hardwired to look for ways that people are either for us, or against us. He calls that brain action, the Big Brain Question, (BBQ for short). The brain “asks” others, “Are you there for me?” If we get more yes answers to the BBQ, our brains will develop and organize in an optimal way. If we get more no answers, our brains won’t develop very well and in some cases, will actually be damaged. How do we answer each other’s BBQ with a yes? We start by listening like Jesus.
Proverbs 18:13 reminds us, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” We are all guilty of that from time to time. We hear the words someone is speaking, but we don’t “hear” what is really trying to be communicated. We don’t listen for the emotional content behind the words. We interrupt, we put others on the defensive, we make others wrong, we give unasked for advice, or we steal the conversation. Deep listening, the kind that Jesus performed, takes patience, and an open mind and heart, compassion and a willingness to learn about others. It requires that we become curious about our fellows and less preoccupied with ourselves. It means we let go of fear and we feel love in its place.
We are instructed to love each other. (John 15:12) The first job of love is to listen. We could all practice to improve our listening skills so that we listen like Jesus. We need to remember, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15) Jesus began telling His sower parable with one powerful word, “Listen!” (Mark 4:1). We would all do well to learn how to do just that.
F.R.O.G. Practice: Today, be mindful of your listening skills. Let others do the talking. Hold your tongue. Don’t interrupt. Listen for the underlying need that is present in their communication. Don’t judge. Be present and full of love and compassion for them. Answer their Big Brain Question with a yes!