A KEY CHARACTERISTIC OF THE SERVANT

Greenleaf asks: ‘Why is there so little listening?’  He also states that a key characteristic of the servant is that he or she ‘listens, first.’

‘Why is there so little listening?’  Noise, Speed, Distraction, ‘Sleep,’ and Attachment (to name four reasons).

Noise: First there is the noise that resides within us — all of the self-talk that we do from moment to moment.  ‘Be Still!’ is not part of our mantra.  Then there is all of the external noise that washes over us moment to moment.  I am currently sitting in a coffee shop and I am bombarded by the music, I am aware of the many voices that are seeking attention, I am aware of the sounds emanating from the coffee making machines, I am aware of the scrapes that the chairs make on the tiled floors and I am aware of the noises coming forth from my own body.  We are a noisy culture.  We love noise.  If two or more folk are gathered then silence will not reign; even if those gathered are attending to their cell phones — texting and reading — silence is not invited in.

Speed: We are also a culture that loves speed.  This often shows up in our busyness.  We rush around like so many chickens in the yard.  We suffer from ‘hurry-sickness.’  We are addicted to speed.

Distraction: We are distracted visually — just look around you a bit and you will begin to notice how many visual distractions abound.  We are distracted by the ‘next thing’ that we have to do.  We are distracted by ‘time’ — how often have you attempted to speak with another and he or she begins looking at their watch.  There are so many distractions that we find being ‘present’ long enough to listen is a real challenge.

‘Sleep:’ We are, too often, not awake, aware and thus not ‘present’ to the other (or to ourselves).  We live in the past or are busy anticipating the future and so it is difficult (or is it ‘troublesome’?) for us to be fully present, to be fully awake and hence to listen deeply.

Attachment: In order to listen I need to hold an attitude that what I hear might influence me.  To the extent I am attached (to my own views, perceptions, values, beliefs, stereotypes, prejudices, deep assumptions, etc.) I will not be able to listen (either to what is emerging from within me or from what is emerging from within you).

about:blank Not only do we need to develop our capacity to listen — to listen to understand, to listen with undefended receptivity, to listen intently, and to listen with an attitude that ‘I might well be influenced by what I hear’ — we need, as Greenleaf writes, ‘to listen, first.’  We are a culture that not only loves speed we love action.  We love to ‘do’ and to ‘make things happen.’  Listening begins ‘in here’ — inside of me — and requires that I pay attention and this requires that I slow down so that I can, indeed, pay attention.  Listening also requires me to slow down so I can listen to you — listening in this way takes time.  Listening becomes a gift — to you and to the one speaking.  The servant listens first especially during times of crisis.  The servant listens so he or she can be appropriately responsive or appropriately reactive — and listening intently and receptively helps one discern which to of these to engage.  Greenleaf also wants to know that when we do choose to speak then our speaking will improve on the silence, and I think, on our listening.

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