Thursday, April 25, 2013

About Listening

"Mommy, I am very angry with you!" said my then 5-year-old son.

A friend who was with us at the time was appalled and said, "You let him talk to you that way? I would never!"

My reply, "Talk to me what way? Telling me honestly how he feels? I see no disrespect in this. He's telling me how he feels and I'm glad." At that, I talked to my son, found out why he was angry with me, dealt with it and he moved on. I can't remember now why he was angry with me, but no doubt it had to do with some little-boy-thing which seemed very big to him at the time. 

I've made many mistakes in parenting my eight kids. I became a mom before I realized the full implications of becoming a mom - as most moms do - and was the mom of a basketball-team-sized family before I knew what hit me! I had no perfect answers for what being a mom meant and really no time to analyze my situation. If I had stopped to think about it, my thinking would have been quickly interrupted by someone needing a diaper change, or needing to be fed, or whatever they continued to need. Motherhood was upon me and I had work to do. Despite my imperfections as a mom, my kids have turned out to be wonderful, God-fearing people who have respect and compassion for all people. 

This is the grace of God. This is no small thing.

In all the hullabaloo I experienced as a mom, one thing was always important to me: my children needed to have a voice. For them to have a voice with me, it meant I had to listen to them. This is something I intentionally tried to do every day.

As a child reared in the home of a violent alcoholic, I had no voice. Having no voice is devastating to anyone, let alone a young girl being repeatedly abused. I was taught very early on that my voice had no merit, my thoughts did not matter, my opinions were not viable, my needs not worth mentioning, and that I was not worth listening to. Imagine the struggle to overcome such thinking.....thinking that had been reinforced time and time again by overbearing adults who were, in my life as a child, supposed to have authority. When those in authority abuse that privilege by downsizing any and all needs of those they have authority over, it produces a way of thinking that is far from what the Bible teaches.

So, because of this, my kids were always allowed to tell me if they were angry, frustrated, sad, lonely, etc. They were allowed to feel these things and they were, and still are, allowed to communicate these things to me. I still see no disrespect in them simply telling me how they feel, even if it's a negative feeling. Everyone gets angry, becomes sad, etc. These are not emotions to fear.

As a child, I did not speak out very often. Once, when my dad was yelling at the top of his lungs at one of my brothers for his bad grades, telling him how stupid he was, I tried to speak out on my brother's behalf. I told my dad that he should not call him stupid. At that, my dad turned on me and I thought he was going to kill me. I didn't speak out again. He was not listening. The only voice he wanted to hear was his own, and he didn't even listen to that one!

The Bible teaches that we all have a voice. Jesus listened to leaders and he listened to beggars. He listened to women. He listened to children. He listened to men. He healed. He fed. He taught. He treated all people the same. He did not get offended when people questioned Him. He simply told the Truth no matter what.

All people have a voice with the Savior.
He listened.
He really listened.
Listening to people gives them their voice. What a great gift!

Are you listening?
Do you know how to listen?
Today, practice listening. Just listen. You might be quite surprised at what you learn by simply listening.

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