By Erin Bird
Let’s get right to it, jumping back into our series about How to Love like Jesus.
This week, I am using a made up word to draw your attention to an important aspect of love. While we need to love humbly and selflessly (as we’ve seen the previous two weeks), part of living those types of love out is through your presence. And one of the most powerful ways to love via your presence is by fully listening to those you are with. In other words, we are to “love earfully.”
Listening with Both Ears
In case you didn’t know, you live with yourselves 100% of the time. (Shocking, I know.) Because of this, your thoughts often dwell on your life. The humans brain routinely expends energy thinking about when you are going to eat next, or when you’ll next get rest, or when you might get to indulge in a distraction, or what is coming up on your calendar or to-do list. These “selfish” thoughts, while in and of themselves aren’t wrong, can often crash into our conversations, where we either end up talking about ourselves (ignoring the other person), or allow our thoughts to distract us (keeping us from truly hearing the other person).
This past week, a friend called me seeking advice. Normally, this friend does a great job of asking, “How are you doing?” (and truly meaning it!). But this time around, my friend was struggling with a decision and needed input. So I sat and listened, asked a few questions, then tried to give him direction based on the Gospel and the teaching of the Scriptures. When we got done, my friend’s issue wasn’t solved, but he concluded with “Erin, thanks. I really appreciate your friendship.”
Those words didn’t come because he thought I gave good advice (in truth, I sense he might actually go the opposite route of my advice!). Those words instead came because I listened. And by being fully present in the call, he felt loved.
But before you think I am some sort of model Christian, I am far from having a perfect record at “loving earfully.” LeAnn and my kids could tell you of numerous times I let them down by only half-listening to them. And in those moments, they felt unloved, unappreciated, or un-valued.
When we look at Jesus, we don’t see Him only give one ear to the conversation. With each person we see Him interact with, He seems to be fully present with them. (Matthew 15:21-28 is one intentional exception to this.) Whether it was desperate dads, bleeding women, or deaf men, we see Jesus “love earfully” by being fully present with each person.
So when you are with someone, whether on the phone, on Zoom, or in the same room, be fully there. Give them both of your ears:
- Take out both earbuds,
- set down your phone,
- fold the newspaper and set it aside,
- mute or even turn off the TV,
- turn your body toward the person,
- and listen!
And when you listen, not only use your ears, but listen with your eyes and your body posture. In other words, listen with your full presence. Let them know they matter and that you are with them in the moment.
Yes, it might be hard to “be all there” when…
- your child is telling you all about their video game or the drama in the dollhouse.
- your coworker is complaining about a minor inconvenience.
- the teacher or conference speaker or Zoom host is droning on and on.
But let them know they matter to God (so therefore matter to you) by loving them “earfully.”