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EDITORIAL: Just listen!

BECAUSE we always see our leaders doing the talking every time there are problems but actually are not giving the correct solutions to ease our sufferings, let this page teach them and those of us who are talkers to just listen as articulated by Fr. Joseph A. Galdon, S.J. in one of his sermons about listening instead of talking: We are great talkers, but most of us are not very good listeners. We want to tell everybody else about what we have done and about all our problems. The real generation gap, I think, is not that we can’t talk to each other, older and younger, but that we don’t listen to each other. One of the nicest compliments I have ever heard about a husband was what a middle aged woman said: “My husband is the greatest husband in the world. When I need to talk, he listens. He really listens.” It’s what Simon and Garfunkel said about “hearing but not really listening” to each other. Sometimes we ought to shut up—we really should – and just listen for a change. A great many years ago I came across a passage in a magazine about listening. It was entitled “Please, Just Listen.” It went something like this: “When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me a lot of advice, you are not doing what I asked you to do. I just wanted you to listen! When I ask you to please listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way and why I shouldn’t be upset, you are really not paying attention to me. When I ask you to listen to me, and you feel that you have to do something right away to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange that may seem. Listen! All I asked you to do was listen, not talk or do anything to help me. Just listen. Advice is cheap. You can find advice columns in all the newspapers. But I don’t need advice. I can do it myself. I just need someone to listen to me for a while, while I straighten out the confusion in my mind. I’m not helpless. Maybe I am discouraged or depressed or faltering, but I’m not helpless. When you do something for me that I really ought to do for myself, you are only adding to my insecurity and my fear and my inadequacy. But when you accept, as a simple fact, that I just need to talk, then I can quit trying to convince you and get about the business of trying to understand what is happening to me and inside me. And when I talk and you just listen, the answers become clearer for me, my irrational feelings begin to make sense, and I begin to understand what is behind them all. So, please, just listen to me for a while, and then if you want to talk, I’ll listen to you.” There’s a lot of sense in that passage. We can usually handle our own problems and work them out if we give ourselves a chance to gnaw at them for a while. If I can find someone to just listen to me for a while, I can usually figure things out for myself. Listening works with God, too. Sometimes I think we talk too much to God and don’t listen to Him enough. Sometimes it’s good to just find a quiet corner some place and sit there for a while and not say anything. Just listen to God. It’s beautiful how He does speak to us if we just stop talking for a while and listen to Him.

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