Posted by: mikenicholsblog | July 20, 2020

subtle selfishness

It’s happened to all of us. We’ve spoken (maybe even passionately) to someone who was absolutely not listening. We could see it in their eyes, that our words were falling on deaf ears. Conversely, we’ve also been on the receiving end of a conversation where we had absolutely no idea what the speaker was saying. We all make excuses for not listening. We were distracted, extremely tired, in a hurry, there were too many details — the list goes on and on. At the core of our poor listening is a subtle selfishness. It whispers, I am more important than you. Those words may sound overly blunt or harsh, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

The people in our lives deserve to be heard. I heard someone say once, “When I speak, all anyone hears is blah, blah, blah!” You, like me, have probably felt that way. Sadly, we’ve also listened that way. Listening can be boiled down to one word … focus!

Writing about this subject without admitting my failures would be inappropriate. I’m pretty driven and intentional as to what I want to accomplish. Without much effort, my agenda will dictate my thinking and I can easily lose focus on what others are saying to me.  I would never want to say it this way, but it is the subtle selfishness I mentioned above; I am more important than you, or my time is too important to stop what I am doing and listen to you. It’s easy to say “just listen.” It’s far more difficult to live deliberately present in each moment, and “really listen.” Do you struggle as a good listener?

In my personal growth journey, I ran across some pages that were ripped from an article. The words truly help me frame the way I should actively listen and be present with others in a profound way. If you will take the same words and internalize them, your listening skills will improve and others will sense that you are truly focusing on them and care about their needs.  The words were written in the Cedarville TORCH magazine in 2011. They can be attributed to a great author, Dr. Richard Swenson.

“The focus of Christ’s ministry was always the person standing in front of Him. The person standing in front of me is an obstacle I ‘m trying to get over, under, around, or through because I’m late for whatever is down the road.  Jesus did not cure every case of leprosy in Israel. If you could just look at it or touch it and heal it, wouldn’t you hold a clinic until 3a.m. every morning? Wouldn’t you give the disciples only an hour of sleep and keep running from village to village? Jesus didn’t do that; He knew there would be more leprosy tomorrow. How completely contrary that is to my whole mentality.”

His focus was always the person standing in front of Him … Hmmm! Although I don’t have an exact example to give you, I believe with all my heart that Christ dealt with people that way. It’s my opinion that His attention and care was directed toward the needs of those (individually or as a group) who were in front of Him at any given moment. Living with this kind of focus is a rarity in our fast-paced, check-my-cell-phone, read-my-texts, get-to-the-next-meeting world. As a result, we hear half statements, draw wrong conclusions, offend those we love, and selfishly infer I am more important than you. I’ll say it again, listening can be boiled down to one word … focus!

A popular mantra in the 1990’s was WWJD (What Would Jesus Do).  I can tell you one thing He would do, because I believe He did it. He would focus on the person right in front of Him. So should I, and so should you! Today, you will stand in front of someone who is speaking to you. Will your eyes drift, will your hand reach for a phone, or will your mind wander to another place? You know what Jesus did … and what He wants you to do. Listen with laser focus and show others the care that Christ would have definitely shown them (and you). I haven’t mastered it yet, but I’m growing. Grow with me!


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