When my grandchild Ellie was born, I had mixed emotions. On one hand, I was happy to get a beautiful granddaughter. On the other hand, I was sad to become a bona fide grandfather. I felt too young, at least at heart, to be a grandfather. But in less than a year, I will have three grandchildren. My daughter-in-law Jieun and my daughter Christine are both pregnant. So I’m resigned to the fact that I am a grandfather.
But if I must be a grandfather, I want to be a nice one. So I pay close attention to older people and observe how they behave. One thing I noticed is that they tend to not pay attention to what other people say. For example, if someone says, “I went to the doctor yesterday because I had a stomachache,” instead of asking “What did the doctor say?” or “How do you feel now?” they say, “I had a stomachache myself the other day” and blather on, shifting the attention to themselves. I decided that as I grow older, I’ll make an effort to truly listen to other people.
Listening to someone attentively is an expression of love. It is also a tool for ministry. One of the reasons that non-believers continue to come to house church meetings is because house church members sincerely listen to what they have to say. Visitors appreciate the fact that the members listen to them for even a couple hours.
When we listen to people earnestly, healing occurs. Some people who are used to studying the Bible whenever they get together criticize house church meetings for exchanging life stories instead of doing in depth Bible studies. They don’t understand that sharing brings inner healing.
People are basically self-centered. It is difficult for us to care for other people or be interested in listening to someone’s personal experiences unless it is funny or contains some useful information. So we need to make an effort to do this.
If we pay close attention to what other people say, we realize that even people who seem to live the most uneventful lives actually live lives of great interest. You come to this conclusion by trying hard to understand what they say and feel the same feelings they do.
As I grow older I find it harder to wait for others to finish their stories. I find myself cutting in before they’re done. My attention span may be getting shorter or I may be getting more impatient as I grow older. If I want to be a nice old man I need to make a conscientious effort to listen to other people patiently.
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