Boxing People In, Sharing Pain, and the Art of Listening

I called up a dear friend recently, and it happened to be on a dreary day marked by sideways rain and flooding streets.  I was looking forward to the conversation because we hadn’t talked in awhile, and he’s someone I would consider a brother from another mother.

Five minutes into the phone call though, I noticed there was a slight slur in his speech and he was rambling on more than normal.

“Dude, are you drunk?” I asked.

He continued to talk on and on…

“Dude, are you sure you’re not drunk?” I asked again impatiently.

“Why do you think I’m drunk, man?” He replied.

“Your speech is slurred and you keep rambling on and on…”

“Yes, I’ve had a few drinks and I might be drunk – but it’s because I’m in pain, man… instead of trying to box me in as (a) drunk, I just need you to listen to my pain right now.”

I’ve been pondering that conversation since it happened, and I realize there was a truthful correction my friend was sharing with me.

Now, I’m not condoning having one too many drinks, nor am I saying that everything an inebriated person says can be taken at face value.

I’m simply admitting that he called me on something I’m prone to fall into – boxing people in without listening to their pain.

It’s so difficult to lay aside my agendas, my categories, my preferences when trying to listen to another human being.  Every part of me would rather speak and be heard than sit and patiently listen.

It’s really hard for me to unconditionally listen to others, including those whom I’m close to.

Maybe what that really means is that it’s extremely hard for me to unconditionally love others, too.

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” — David Augsburger

And maybe, the fact that God listens and loves us without condition is a miracle worth pondering sometime too.

Psalm 40:1

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.


3 responses to “Boxing People In, Sharing Pain, and the Art of Listening

  1. Insightful

  2. Sometimes ‘ministry’ looks different than we were taught, but reaches in deep to loving like Jesus. I experienced that last summer with my Dad. He was in such a bad place, and there was very little talk, particularly about God, but it was a chance to care for someone in their deepest need and it was a holy time if ever I knew one.

  3. This is so wonderful and so true. Thanks for posting this.

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