Misc. Wednesday: Listening

Placeholder ImageThe typical Pastor wears many hats. Something I think many forget about.

Pastors are admins. – answering the phone and copying that week’s bulletin or newsletter. Pastors are teachers, leaders and shepherds. Pastors sit with folks in the darkest of times and in the lightest of times. Pastors are counselors, healers (not in a physical sense) and mediators.

Somehow Pastors do all of this, and more, and usually it’s done all at the same time. Trust me. I know.

But most of all, Pastors listen.

Pastors listen when folks confess about struggles. Pastors listen to family stories about a loved one who recently passed. Pastors listen to a couple as they journey towards a life together in wedding bliss. Pastors listen to gripes about the church and usually what it’s doing wrong. Pastors listen to ways to make the church better.

From there, the Pastor shepherds the flock by guiding, leading, teaching; by laughing and crying.

I’ve laughed at weddings with a couple during the vows and I’ve cried during a eulogy or prayer at a memorial service. I’ve had conflict thrown in my face, depressed to be in the situation to begin with. I’ve had wonderful discussions with a group of people who want to know God more intimately.

The challenge for a Pastor is to listen and then provide comfort or advice and guidance. Sometimes it’s heard. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes people appreciate your wisdom. Sometimes they tell you to take a hike. Ok, maybe not so much in those words but it happens.

I struggle with the listening part. Not so much that I don’t listen. I do. Intently actually. It’s the processing in the moment. When someone tells me something, I usually give a response but it’s later that I go, “Doh! That’s what they were saying!” I suppose all of us do this, not just me or other Pastors. I’ve gotten better at processing in the moment, especially when I notice how I wasn’t asked but told to do something or told how that’s the only day that works for that get together. Ugh…it’s my new pet peeve. There’s a difference between asking and telling, folks. Learn it. And learn to listen in the process.

I often feel as if people talk but are not heard. I often feel that I’m the only one listening and paying attention. I know part of that is my introvertedness, the ability and need to observe everything. That’s why I’m so quiet most of the time.And it’s the Pastor in me.

However, listening is more than part of a Pastor’s job – it’s a human thing. Every one of us should be listening to each other, talking and observing conversations and body language. That’s part of the fear that is seeming to run rampant in our society I believe. No one wants to open dialogue and listen. There’s plenty of talk with little to no listening.

How can one understand someone else, someone’s life choice or religious beliefs or whatever if listening isn’t accompanied with the talking? Plus, it’s not a job for only a select few. It’s a human job.

Talk with one another. Listen to what others have to say. Oh, and watch your tone. Tone is everything. If it comes off as harsh, I don’t know about you, but I get defensive and frustrated. And that leads to other problems. It’s something I’m working on.

Moments of talking and listening may lead to laughing and joy or sharing in someone’s pain, all of which are holy, sacred moments. It can lead to something incredible.

Shouldn’t life be full of holy, sacred moments? Shouldn’t life be full of incredibles?


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