Awhile back I was having lunch with a friend. In the course of our conversation my friend mentioned that his dad would occasionally invite him to have breakfast in order to simply and sincerely listen to what he wanted to share. During these breakfast meetings nothing was out of bounds. Even if my friend’s thoughts and feelings were awkward or offensive to his father; his father still wanted to hear about it. Even if his dad disagreed, the point wasn’t to debate or get defensive; but simply to carve out time every-so-often to honestly listen.

As my friend told me about these sessions where his dad would simply listen I found myself feeling incredulous. Who does this!? I’ve seen plenty of examples of people arguing, and getting offended and defensive, and walking away because they “don’t feel welcome,” and petulantly downplaying their faults and flaws …but this simple and sincere listening business!? That’s crazy!

Apparently my friend’s dad got this idea from his Boss. My friend’s dad’s boss is perfect, and subsequently He’s not insecure, and thus he doesn’t feel compelled to defend Himself or leave when He “doesn’t feel welcome.” For example, the Boss once had a very close relative say to Him,

“How long will you forget me!? Forever!? How long will you hide from me!? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart!?”

No guy I know would be able to handle this kind of emotional honesty. The guys I know would say,

“I haven’t forgotten you!!! How dare you accuse me of crimes I didn’t commit! And I’m not hiding from you! How dare you arraign me like this! Thou shalt not say such things to me! I demand a Satanic version of respect, where you’re not allowed to utter things that I really really don’t like to hear! Plus, this is the first I’m hearing of your disappointment (because I haven’t cultivated a garden of healthy honesty and listening, but rather I have allowed the weeds and poison ivy of appeasement and pretending to pervade the garden), and therefore by some Satanic logic you are not allowed to be honest with me about how you feel. …I’m ‘sorry’ you’re so frail and whiny. Please accept a shallow explanation of how you misunderstand me, and please placate me while I blatantly sidestep any genuine admissions of personal wretchedness or wrongdoing.”

The guys I know would feel extremely offended, and they would get intensely defensive, because they are deeply insecure.

But my friend’s dad’s boss allowed his close relative to say these things without getting defensive, or shutting things down, or downplaying or dismissing the felt pain, or offering simplistic analogies and ‘explanations’ in an effort to superficially allay heartbreak.

I was blown away! The profound power and security of simply listening (even, or especially, in the face of someone sharing intense emotions or feelings that don’t account for all ‘the facts’)! This is INCREDIBLE! This is MIRACULOUS!

During these listening sessions My friend’s dad would offer four genuine questions…

  1. How have I encouraged you?
  2. How have I disappointed you?
  3. How do you think I should spend my time differently?
  4. How can I help you succeed and work with you for your joy?

Imagine honestly asking people these questions and simply and sincerely listening!

And if you’re a father reading this blog, don’t FIRST ask how your kids can offer this kind of respect and empathy to you …Instead, imaginatively inhabit the PSALMS and receive this kind of BOLD LISTENING from God, and then robustly offer this kind of listening to your kids!