People do interesting things when they don't feel heard. They sit or kneel during anthems, they riot in the streets, they chant in big crowds with signs that rhyme. My kids do all sorts of things when they don't feel heard. They slam doors, they scream loud, they stomp their feet and rebel in all sorts of ways. When I don't feel heard I ignore you, pretend you don't exist or figure out a way to live my life with the least amount of you possible. We all act differently when we don't feel heard.
And when using the term "Heard" I mean when you feel like someone has no care or regard for your feelings, way of life or words that you say; when people feel like they're not understood or considered. I feel like we do a lot of listening, but very little hearing or understanding. 90% of the arguments I get in with my wife are when one of us doesn't feel heard or understood.
When I prepare for one of the biggest events of my week - our weekly church gathering, I prepare a whole lot about what I'm going to say. I put a lot of planning, time and energy into using the platform God has given me to say exactly what I think people need to hear. When people come to your weekly gathering they expect you to say something that will speak to what they're going through. Using the platform God has given you is so important, so we must be good stewards of that.
But what if we are leaving out a major part of making people feel valued in our ministries and organizations? What kind of time do you put in to listening? How much time do you take to understand those who you minister to? How much planning do you put in for just listening. It doesn't have to happen on a Sunday morning, but it should happen sometime, right?
How much time do you listen to understand your spouse, your neighbor, your co-worker or co-leader? You know that person that seems to always complain or point out whats wrong with EVERYTHING you do? When was the last time you tried to really understand their viewpoint?
A few years ago a friend asked me to meet with his daughter. She was making some really bad, and quite frankly, dangerous choices with her life. When I talked to the girl I realized that everything she did was to get her Father's attention. Her choices were her way of screaming at her Dad "Listen to me!" "Pay attention!" I sat down with the Dad after a few times meeting with his daughter and told him to start taking his daughter out on dates, to talk to her, love on her and just listen to her. Understand her, validate her. He didn't take my advice and his daughter continued to spiral out of control. He would yell at her, tell her all the things she did wrong, make empty threats. He didn't realize that she just wanted to be heard, to be understood. I make the same mistake that my friend does, my son will say every once in a while "Dad, just listen to me!"
I don't listen to my son, because I already know what he's going to say, I already know I will say no to his request or his reasoning. I mean, it was the same tactics I used on my Dad when I was his age. But my son sometimes doesn't feel heard. And when people don't feel heard they do weird things. You don't "Hear" people around you because you know what they'll say, you'll know how you're going to answer them and their arguments usually annoy and frustrate you. You justify that you don't have the time to hear this person, because it's the same argument they had last time or it was the same thing the last person said.
As a leader of your ministry, organization or family you owe it to the people around you to make listening and understanding as much, or dare I challenge you, more of a priority than what you say each week. I promise you that the more you listen to people, the more they'll want to hear what you have to say. It works like investing, the more you put in, the more you'll get out.
Mike Wing is the Lead Pastor of Lockport Christian Church. His amazing wife’s name is Amber and he has 3 awesome boys. Abram is 5, and Eli & Jadon are twins that are almost 2. He’s had the privilege of living in Lockport, NY for almost 10 years and is really excited to see God bringing new businesses and buildings in the city and town where he lives. He has a huge passion to see community built within his church and believes the best thing about his church are the people in it, and seeing them grow in relationship with God and each other.