Listen and Understand –
Often the most loving thing to do is simply listen. Deep down, people desperately want to be understood, to know someone cares enough to pay attention.
I lived for several years in Los Angeles, in an area where there are around 100,000 homeless people. I used to go for a walk every day, partly for exercise and partly as a time to pray. I rarely got thirty yards out the door before someone approached asking for some sort of help. In those days, I rarely had much money to share, but I decided early on that I would at the very least look them in the eye, no matter how filthy they looked or how bad they smelled, and acknowledge their presence and validate their dignity as human beings.
Learning to be a Good Listener
It was amazing how often they just wanted to talk. So I got in the habit of stopping and talking. It got so that one time when two friends were visiting from out of town, we decided to walk down the street about six or seven blocks to a local restaurant for lunch, it took us about an hour to get there because every few yards someone I had befriended wanted to chat.
One friend finally said, “Do you know everyone out here?”
While I still take time to interact with anyone I meet during the course of the day, it should be obvious that this same desire to be known is not limited to homeless people.
Developing the capacity to listen and understand is a basic element of human relationships of all kinds.
The more intimate the relationship, the more important it becomes. Having a good marriage is impossible without taking time—intentional time—to get to know the dreams, desires, frustrations, fears, hopes, goals, etc. of the one closest to us. That’s just how love works.