Here is an old story:
A little girl came home from the school with a drawing she’d made in class. She danced into the kitchen, where her mother was preparing dinner.
“Mom guess what”, she squealed waving her drawing.
Her mother never looked up. “What” she said, tending to the pots.
“Guess what!”, the child repeated waving the drawing.
“What” the mother said tending to the plates.
“Mom you’re not listening”
“Sweetie yes I am” – said the mother.
“Mom”, the child said, “You’re not listening with your eyes”.
I think this is true for us in today’s age more than ever. So many of us when we are listening to one another we no longer listen with our eyes. We don’t deeply show our attention, our empathy, and our connection to the people we are listening to. We check our phones, check the clock, check our surroundings, but aren’t checking in with the person we are actually talking with.
I know I am as guilty as most. I’m tempted when my phone buzzes to check that text. I’m tempted to just quick check Twitter. I’m tempted to look at the clock. None of these things are bad, but all of these things communicate that the person you are talking with isn’t your top priority. In essence I’m tempted to not listen with my eyes, and then not with my heart either.
And here is why this matters, because my bet is that if someone has influenced and changed you in a deep way ~ they were a good listener. My bet is they made you a priority. My guess is they showed that you mattered by giving you their undivided attention. But having someone’s undivided attention is so rare these days, but that’s why it’s so valuable, counter-cultural, and transformational. How often you do you think your kids have someone completely rapt attention in the day? How often does your co-worker have someone truly interested in them and not just waiting for their turn to speak? How often does your neighbor have someone who isn’t rushing by but listening with their heart and eyes?
My point is that deep listening, with our hearts and eyes, is special because it is both so rare and transformative. And if we want to be people who bless, share life, change communities, and reveal Jesus’ love it will start with how we listen. It will start by putting aside our agendas, our phones, our distractions and saying to our kids, family, friends, and neighbors you matter to me with what’s going on in your life. Because that is the model of Jesus. We always have his attention, and it’s always undivided. So why not try giving that gift to someone today.