5 Ways that Listening Brings Us Together

by Mark Votava


Listening has been the most life transforming practice for me.  Nothing has shaped me more.  Listening has taken me to the depths of my soul and has challenged me to see life in new ways.  Sometimes it is painful and sometimes it leads to joy, but it is the primary way the Spirit lives in me.

Here are 5 ways that listening can bring us together in everyday life.

1. Listening fosters respect and humility

Without listening we become arrogant toward and disrespectful of others.  We destroy our relationships and bring on the unconscious suicide of our personality.  We slowly deteriorate and do not carry ourselves well.

2. Listening cultivates love

We become blind and ignorant.  We become self-centered and begin to hate. As a matter of fact, all hate stems from a refusal to listen.  We are not called to hate as the body of Christ, but we are called to love.  And love is about listening in the parish.

“To live without listening is not to live at all; it is simply to drift in my own backwater,” writes the wise Benedictine Joan Chittister.

In other words, when we don’t listen, we die.  We are living a slow agonizing death without listening.  God is a listener and we are made in his image to listen.

 “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen …” (James 1:19).

James is encouraging us to listen.  He urges us to “take note of this.”  That means he thinks it is important.  I think there is a lot of correlation here with Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 13 to love above all things.

3. Listening makes us alive

Listening as a way to express our love for others is so important to the body of Christ in place, locality and neighborhood.  The particulars of everyday life need a fabric of relationships where listening is active and alive.

Keri Wyatt Kent says, “Our listening communicates love, often more clearly than our words …”

4. Listening is deeply relational

The communal imagination needs to listen if it is to communicate love.  There is no way around this.  Listening precedes a lot of other less important things that might seem more “spiritual” to us.  In fact, listening is deeply spiritual and deeply relational.

5. Listening is the basis for reconciliation

Thich Nhat Hanh observes such truth when he writes, “Deep listening is the basis for reconciliation …”

Could this possibly be so?  If listening really leads to reconciliation, then the members of the body of Christ have found the key to getting along with each other and those they live with in the neighborhood in the particulars of everyday life.  This would be truly miraculous.  It is in the ordinary, relational particulars of everyday life that God manifests his miracles.

Listening as a means to reconciliation has a big part to play in this.  This doesn’t seem “spiritual” to us, but it is: listening is infused with the miraculous, particular, ordinary aspects of relational living in the parish.  What good news to our lives! Listening is life-giving, and we can all do it through the guidance of Christ, who is the head of the body.

Does listening play a part in your spirituality?