"For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved; in quietness and confidence is your strength'; but you'll have none of this" (Isaiah 30:15, Living Bible).
How far will an individual go just to get someone to listen? Take for example the man who recently robbed a bank near our office. He had no sooner asked for the money, which was placed in a brown paper bag, then he sat down on the floor and started to cry; and he kept on crying until the police arrived. You see, he has two children who needed physical help, and he was willing to go to prison for someone to hear his furtive cry for help.
Only days before, Mary Jo Jansen complained that nobody listened to her. Not her doctors. Not her attorney. Not even her family. No one. So, according to a close friend, she decided to capture everyone's attention in what he called "one of the most notorious ways possible": She walked into an elementary school near her home, barged into a classroom which she chose at random and held the teacher and the pupils, whom she did not know, as hostages before she finally put a gun to her temple and pulled the trigger, taking her own life.
"That's sick!" you immediately respond, and I think most folks would agree. No one could subject innocent children to such a statement of anger and defiance who is not emotionally ill. But the fact remains, people who feel lonely and unheard are desperate and willing to do almost anything to make a statement. Basically, that is one of the reasons people write graffiti on restroom walls and go to absurd lengths of violence or mayhem. As Andy Warhol put it in a song, "They want to be famous for 15 minutes. They want to be known."
Every individual, including you who are at the other end of this program, has three basic needs: 1. Love. 2. Fulfillment, and 3. Security. That second need, "fulfillment," means feeling worthwhile to yourself and to other people. Having someone listen to you validates your sense of self-esteem, and makes you feel that you are a person of value and worth.
Dr. Paul Tournier, the late Swiss psychiatrist, once wrote, "It is impossible to overemphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to. Listen to all the conversations of the world, between nations as well as those between couples. They are for the most part dialogues of the deaf."
Tragic, but true, is the fact that a lot of hurting people would give almost anything to have someone listen to them, especially someone close to them as a husband or a wife. How do I know? I've just spent my last three hours reading some of the mail that you have sent to me in recent weeks. One woman complained that her husband listened to his mother for hours on the phone and could talk to other people but never had time to listen to her. A husband wrote that his wife was always accusing him of not communicating when he says he remembers telling her things – which, to me, underlined the fact that communication means something different to males than females.
What's the bottom line? Two-fold: You can't meet the needs of your husband or wife, the teenagers living in your house, or even your children without learning to listen; it's all part of communication. A second truth that needs to be emphasized is that one of the ingredients of prayer is listening and hearing God's voice--Who always responds to our heart-cries. A young woman complained, "For four hours I prayed, saying, ‘God, say something’ and He was silent." "No," I replied, "God was speaking loudly, saying, ‘Trust me...take it by faith!'" Listening is important--tremendously important. His voice is a quiet one, so turn off the TV, the radio, and the computer and listen quietly.
Resource reading: 1 Kings 19: 1-13