Friends Love at All Times
This week we are looking deeply at what it takes to be a friend that loves at all times. This will require us to set aside our own feelings and emotions and let our friend shine – or in some cases be their support when they can’t be it for themselves.
One way to practically show our friends love is to simply listen. It’s one end of a conversation, right? And the end where so many in this day and age forget to be active. We need to open our hearts and our minds, engage, be present, and allow our friend to feel safe and loved.
Today our dear friend and guest blogger, Kay Harms, shares her deep admiration for her friends that listen…really, truly lean in and listen. These are times when she has truly felt the love of a friend.
Can you relate? Can you pass on the love to a friend in need? Are you equipped to lean in and listen? We welcome your thoughts!
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)
My favorite friends are the ones who listen to me, really listen.
Of course, at this point, all of my friends have become excellent listeners out of necessity. For a couple of years there recently I must have spent hundreds of hours sitting across a table from one friend or another pouring out my heart, crying a few tears and hammering out my frustrations. It was just one of those hard seasons of life.
I’m grateful for the women who just listened.
I don’t know if I’m a great listener or not. But I aspire to bring to the table the same gift these women brought when they leaned in and patiently allowed me to unfurl the knots in my heart.
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” Karl Menninger
Ah, to unfold and expand!
As I’ve thought about what makes a good listener, I’ve recollected some of the conversations I had with dear friends lingering over picnic tables, sipping coffee in diners or sitting on a sofa with a pile of fresh, unfolded laundry between us. In each case I remember my friends doing a few simple things that unleashed my pent up thoughts, opened the space for me to pour them out freely and then soothed my spent emotions.
The best listeners lean in with more than their shoulders.
Anyone can master the mechanics of being a “good listener.” Engage with your eyes, lean in with your shoulders, nod your head occasionally. But it’s pretty easy to distinguish between a “master listener” and a genuine one. The friends who make me feel safe, heard and valued are the ones who really pay attention to what I’m saying. While they may have their own frustrations, burdens or to-do list, they graciously put those aside temporarily in order to focus on the one who is talking to them.
That kind of listening begins in a compassionate heart, one that cares immensely about the other person.
It isn’t borne out of good mechanics or even good manners. A sensitive, loving and concerned heart compels this friend to lean in with her soul…and maybe her shoulders, too.
Good listeners engage with their hearts and minds.
Maybe that’s just the difference between a true friend listening and someone hearing you out that hasn’t really reserved any space in her heart for you. When a good friend listens, she winces inside a little when you bare your wounds, thrills when you squeal over a victory, gets goosebumps when you share how God has worked and bears a little of the weight when you unload a burden.
When you share a problem that you’re struggling to work through, she might pick up pencil and pad or pull out her smart phone or Google something on her computer. She’s invested and intends to work through the nitty gritty with you.
She’s already invested in you, so of course she engages when you speak.
A good listener is quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.
Yep, that one is from the Bible. James 1:19, to be exact.
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. (James 1:19)
This scripture teaches me that listening is always the priority. Honestly, that’s hard to reconcile at times. Often I’m tempted to chime in with my two cents before the other person is finished talking. But good listeners linger on the thoughts expressed by the other person before they formulate their own.
James 1:19 also indicates that a good listener is one who does eventually speak, but cautiously, carefully.
They take pains with their words before launching them into the conversation. Perhaps they even probe a little further with appropriate questions or gentle nudges to “share more” before taking the floor. And then, I think, they resist the urge to lecture or explain or fix or berate. Instead, they begin a conversation, a volley of thoughts and ideas and questions and suggestions.
And what about the admonition to “be slow to anger”?
While the original intent may have been a little different, I think the lesson for the listening friend is to be slow to become emotional. I treasured listening friends who expressed compassion for me but who didn’t allow my hurt or despair or embarrassment or jealousy or cynicism to kindle those same emotions within them.
In other words, in the long run, I valued their levelheadedness.
Wow! That’s a pretty high calling – good listener.
Who knew there was so much involved? But I want that. I want to be that kind of listener for my friends, especially for those who sat or walked with me while I unleashed so freely.
So I’m asking God to develop within me three things that seem to be at the heart of listening well. I’m asking Him for:
1. Patience (I realize that’s risky!)
2. A compassionate heart
I’m asking the Lord to cultivate these three attributes within me so that I can lean in and engage with my heart and mind. And I’m submitting to His work in these areas so I that I will prioritize listening, be careful and cautious with my responses and keep both a level head and a soft heart.
What makes a good listener to you? Are you one? Or do you need to join me in prayer for God to cultivate this skill in us?
Kay Harms is the author of three women’s Bible studies and a frequent speaker at women’s events around the country. She is passionate about helping women discover biblical answers for their modern dilemmas and challenges. An empty nester and pastor’s wife, Kay serves alongside her husband in Arizona.
Kay talks more about the importance of listening in her new book When You Find Another: A Conversation about Friendship among Friends.