While doing my cardio workout at the Fitness Center last week I watched as the gentleman in front of me on a stationary bicycle listened to two fellow exercisers talk.
The first guy went on and on about how bad the Lakers were. And it wasn’t just the players who were bad, he was really unhappy with the ownership and management. Based upon what I could hear I think he thought he knew a lot more about the Lakers and professional basketball than he does. After about 15 minutes he blustered off.
Right after the first guy left the man on the adjacent stationary bicycle dismounted and began to talk to the gentleman. He unloaded about a few subjects but mostly went on and on about the current state of politics. According to him no one really knows what they are doing. Again, based upon what I could hear I think he thought he knew a lot more about politics than he does. After about 15 minutes he left.
As the gentleman on the stationary bicycle dismounted he accidently kicked my elliptical machine and apologized. I said, “You are a quite a listener.” To which he replied something along the lines, “Somebody has to do it, it’s very important.” He had not refuted either of them, or agreed with them, or joined in with them. He just listened. I told him I was impressed and thought that he could be a therapist. And I suggested that perhaps I should make an appointment to see him.
He told me he had been a probation officer for 30 years and had learned the importance listening. I told him I was a retired pastor and unfortunately had done too much talking and not enough listening. He then began to talk about his two uncles who were pastors and about his church. I was finished with my workout and needed to get going so I again affirmed him and told him he inspired me. We exchanged names and shook hands.
As I thought about what I had witnessed and our discussion it occurred to me that I missed a golden opportunity to follow his example. I wish I would have been more like him and invited him to say more. I’m pretty sure listening to him would have been well worth my time and encouraging.
My confession is that not just as a pastor, but in a lot others roles as well I have talked too much and not listened enough. I’m also fairly confident I really don’t know as much as I think I do. Don’t get me wrong: I have a lot to say that is worth hearing. But so do a lot of people I talk with and I am challenged and inspired to be a better listener.
I don’t need to always agree with what I hear nor do I need to always refute what I hear. Sometimes I just need to take the time and listen. If it’s important for me to be listened to, and it is, then it is also important for me to listen.
I look forward to seeing my new friend at the Fitness Center and talking with him.
Are you listening?
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P.S. If you’re really interested in the content of this post I encourage you to get and read a novel entitled The Listener by Taylor Caldwell first published in 1976. I’m confident you will not only enjoy the book but also be impacted by it.