Has someone opened their life to you and explained their travails? If so, then like me, you have probably cut them off and tried to explain why they don’t actually understand their sufferings. I was disabused of this early in my marriage. Often, people don’t open up because they want you to fix it. Sometimes people speak because they just want someone to hear.
I am a competitive person. So when I am dialoguing, I am usually ready with a reply faster than the fastest draw in the land (even if I don’t know what I speak of!). The reality is that often you and I engage in conversation to be heard, not to hear.
What does this have to do with the Christian faith?
Christians believe that Jesus Christ has humbly given up himself considering equality (which was his) nothing to be grasped, and instead emptied himself (Phil 2:5-8). “Have this mind among yourselves,” (2:5) Paul commands the Philippians. Paul’s desire is that they likewise consider their own value nothing for the sake of one another. That though they are indeed equals, they consider themselves lower than their peers. And indeed, through our union with our Lord, this mind already is ours, it is now a matter of using it.
Humility enters our conversations when we listen well. You see, often when we interrupt with idiosyncratic insights, we don’t do it because we have listened well, we do it because we desire to add something to the conversation. Friends, this is pride. Humility asks more questions than it answers. Humility does not wait for the other person to say their piece so we can blow their minds with something insightful, to drop a knowledge bomb. It means being the novice and letting them be the teacher. Humility means deeply pondering what the other person has said, no matter how wrong it is. And often it will be wrong.
Humility patiently taught me to ask, “Do you want me to fix it, or do you just want me to hear?” Do you want me to speak or not to speak?
And when they say, “I just want you to listen,” humility teaches me to accept that.