My last two articles were mostly stories and then a sentence or two about the stories. You might have wondered, “What the heck is Sister doing? What is the point of this? Has she completely lost her mind?” Believe it or not, you would not be the first person who thought so!

The two stories I shared are stories that are very close to my heart. Stories that make you wonder and reflect. Stories that demand to be told or to be read to by someone, rather than just reading them. A good story told to us by a skilled storyteller makes us actually listen.

Isn’t listening a lost art? In the age of social media, where everyone has something to say about everything and everybody, deep listening has, I believe, been forgotten. Don’t get me wrong – having a voice is important. Social media has allowed me to find my voice! By finding it, I have grown personally as well as professionally. Before I began tweeting and blogging, I never thought I could be writing for a newspaper! Heck, I never thought I could write, period! Personally, I must admit that as I began getting more deeply involved with social media, my listening skills became, well, rusty. So, I now endeavor on a series on listening. Here goes.

According to Kay Lindahl, author of The Sacred Art of Listening1, listening is “a creative force.” When we are listened to by another, we expand our perspectives, ideas come to life and we grow. When we do not receive this gift from another, something within us shrivels up and dies.

Lindahl continues, “Listening well takes time, and a readiness to slow down, to let go of [personal] expectations, judgments, boredom, self-assertiveness, defensiveness.… When people experience the depth of being listened to like this, they also begin to listen to others in the same way.”

I know when I am stressed by the demands of my job and someone with whom I work comes into my office to “chat,” it often takes an act of will to sit and listen to my visitor. However, the very act of sacrificing my personal work expectations in order to listen teaches me the virtues of patience and charity. By the mere act of sacrificing my time to listen, I am showing that person what love looks like. This can be an act of holiness! After all, who doesn’t want to be holy?

1Lindahl, Kay. The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. SkyLight Paths Pub., 2002. Pg. 11

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness