31 Days: Listening – the gift of paying attention

Spider OrchidHave you ever noticed how it feels to have someone listen to you? I mean really listen. It doesn’t really happen all that often, especially in this crazy busy world of distractions. But when someone gives you their full attention, and just listens, that’s a precious moment.

When someone is genuinely interested in you and what you have to say, their attention says that you matter. You have value.

I need to know that I matter, that I have value. So do you. So do we all.

It’s hard to listen really well. To listen without jumping to conclusions or to judgement. To get past the feeling that listening isn’t enough, that I need to share my own anecdote to show that I understand, that I need to provide a solution a friend’s problem, that I should have some useful advice. That I somehow need to fix things, as if they need me to rescue them, as if I’m not already broken myself.

But what if I listened to someone in order to learn? From them. About them. What if I listened – to know them?

How would that change the way I listen?

Would it free me from shouldering a responsibility that is not mine? Would it free me from waiting for ‘my turn’? Would it free me from trying to impress with my own insight or humour? Would it free me to really pay attention and seek to understand a person. Would it allow me to really see them for who they are? To be with them? To love them and care about them?

I think it just might.

31 Days to Listen

This is Day 23 of the series 31 Days to Listen. Visit Write 31 Days to see how other writers are contributing to this challenge.

Where are you focusing your attention?

Blurred flower

One of the things you quickly discover if you’ve ever used a camera, is the importance of focus.

What you focus on affects what you see.

Inadvertently focusing on the wrong part of a scene may produce very disappointing results, especially if there’s no opportunity to try again.

This is also true of life.

Whatever we focus on, that’s what we see. Sometimes to the exclusion of all else. If we only focus on the things that are going wrong, on what we lack, on mistakes, on imperfections, on irritations, and on defeat – that’s what we see. If what we focus on is negative, what we see is negative. And soon enough what we think, feel and do, will also be negative.

But if we focus on what’s good, on the people we love, on what we have, on the beauty of life, on simple pleasures, on opportunities to take, on lessons learned, on victories won – then that’s what we see.

And these are the things that make us smile, make us laugh, make us wonder, make us give thanks. Even the challenges of life may look different when we start to focus on what’s positive.

…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

These are the things worthy of our attention.