'Don't just do something... stand there!'


No, I haven't got this title round the wrong way, it's correct as it stands. That's because it was the unofficial motto amongst the Samaritans with whom I served many years ago in Fife. This phrase was adopted by us was because it summed up very well the attitude we were to take throughout our involvement with those who were in distress, despair and in many cases, tempted to suicide.


THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

Our role in such situations wasn't in terms of decision-making, advice-giving or really any form of counselling, either directive or non-directive. Above all we were there to simply listen... the value of which was certainly made clear to me one particular day.


After having sat with a poor, pathetic soul for over an hour, listening to her tell me all about her life of abuse at the hands of men from even her earliest childhood, she said to me on leaving our office... 'Thanks so much for such wonderful help.' But this was such a huge shock to me because all I had contributed to our conversation was a series of empathetic nods and grunts as well as (hopefully) sympathetic eye contact. I wasn't a follower of Jesus in these days so it was to my considerable surprise when on a future date I discovered that the approach I had taken actually harmonised with the Biblical injunction...


'Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak...'

James 1:9


THE DISCIPLINE OF LISTENING

Yet all the listening I was to do in the Samaritans was to prove such good experience when I was to go on to discover that it was God's plan that I should become an Inspector with the RSSPCC - 'no, it's no the dug missus, it's the bairns' - and then have a career in social work. And as a follower of Jesus today I readily recognise the importance of listening, and listening intently, because to quote singer/songwriter Paul Williams...


'There are those who listen, and those who wait to talk!'


After all, it can be so easy to inadvertently fall into the trap of never using one word if two would do! No doubt like me we need to take account of God's warning when he says...


'The more words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?'

Ecclesiastes 6:11

and...

'He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.'

Proverbs 18:13


THE CHALLENGE OF LISTENING

There's no doubt that we all like to think that other people will be interested in us aour affairs. But within a society with what seems an increasing preoccupation with 'self', perhaps it's all the more important that we show our care for others by simply demonstrating genuine interest in and for them. And what better way than being ready to listen. After all...


'...he who holds his tongue is wise.'

Proverbs 10:19


So, in seeking to be a channel of love towards others I need to remember the priority of listening.After all, so much of lasting benefit can be transmitted by the 'silent witness' of my lifestyle as well as the unspoken word.Sometimes simply being there can be enough.

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