Are People Listening To You?

Are you feeling as though people aren’t hearing what you say? To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, the greatest compliment anyone could pay me is that someone would ask what I thought and will then listen to me. My goal is to be the one that listens.

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That, however, would need to be true undivided attention, without distractions. The kind that can be seen in my eyes. Not forced attentiveness with a goal to just win friends and influence people.

Of all people, even when Jesus was being pressed in by the crowds, he still took the time to give undivided attention to the woman who touched his robe (Mark 5:30-34). He didn’t have to. She had already been healed. He could have kept on walking.

I have learned in my job that actively listening to people and asking about their stories can help you grow in understanding and give you the kind of joy that comes only by emotionally connecting with another human being. But that requires face-to-face interaction.

It also requires discipline and intentionality. That will more than likely require putting our phones away, limiting our TV viewing, and committing the time to visit with family and friends. I know this is not easy. I have to remind myself to be intentional about it all the time. That being said, I’m glad that the one TV series I allow myself to watch has ended for the season.

So, as we remind ourselves to “love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other,” who is willing to give genuine listening an intentional try with me? (Romans 12:10)

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A Note to my Adult Children

For me, the 1990’s were a decade of self examination, spiritual growth and transformation (Romans 12:2). I had a lot of catching up to do and was responsible for three young lives. I was serious about making life what I had always hoped it could be but it took a lot of humility and dependence on God to discipline myself for the growth (Hebrews 12:11).

As I read my journals these past couple weeks, I noticed three main topics emerge during these years of transition from my 20’s to my 30’s: learning about and appreciating who God created me to be, living a life without chaos, and being content with each day and the circumstances God gave me.

As I think about my own children entering this stage in their lives, I hear the discouraging rhetoric that takes away their hope and tells them that this generation’s circumstances will make it difficult for them to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Therefore, it left me wondering if they are being dealt a hand that is more difficult than my generation. After reading about my own struggles from 20 years ago, I do not think it is more difficult. It is just different.

My struggles with negative self image, simplification, and contentment are still as relevant today as they were back then but the one thing that makes them more complicated is technology. Technology has made dealing with these issues so different that we get confused trying to figure out new ways to define and deal with them. For instance, marketing and the internet has inundated us with more and more creative messages about who we “should” be and what we “should” look like (self image); we have come to believe we “need” more technology so much so that we cannot even sit still or be quiet enough to hear God’s leading (simplification); and, therefore, we feel we need more money to buy more technology, clothing, beauty products and things that we have been convinced will make us successful and happy (contentment).

There are now so many online forums to talk about society’s struggles that it gives the impression that this generation has more to deal with than any previous generation. For instance, with all the talk about binge drinking and the crack down on drunk driving, it appears that it is worse now than it has ever been. However, Americans were consuming 10.5 liters per capita in 1980 and it is currently down to 8.3 liters per capita. That is why Mothers Against Drunk Driving was established in 1980 and, since then, alcohol related traffic fatalities have decreased by 44%. I am not saying that alcohol abuse and drunk driving are not still big issues; I am saying that it has always been a problem.

Every young person throughout history has had to make personal choices; and now, technology has given us more options to choose from. That can be a bad thing when you consider the increased access to gambling and pornography or it can be a good thing when you consider the fact that we have choices to more positive alternatives. I can remember our only alternatives to house parties in the late 1970’s were roller skating and bowling. Back then, we didn’t have electronic games, “good” movies at the touch of a button, or cell phones and Facebook to talk to our friends.

As far as the hopeless rhetoric about the economy is concerned, the unemployment rate was as high during the recession in the early 80’s as it is now. In addition, when my husband and I purchased our home in 1983, our interest rate was 12.25% and our income was only 15% of what it is now. Sure, we struggled but working hard and growing together as a couple is what makes a great marriage.

Just like terrorism, there has always been something to fear. However, my hope is that my children and their friends would be encouraged to see that there is hope by observing those who have gone before them to live fulfilling lives without giving in to fear and hopeless rhetoric.

In my next few posts, I am going to talk more about these age-old topics of self worth, simplicity and contentment in light of my own past experiences. God can give peace and fulfillment when we look beyond the every day rhetoric, images and distractions of 2012 (Psalm 146:5).

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