Are You Listening? 

Reflections by Maxie Dunnam

man with hand up to ear

I hear it too often, “Are you listening? 

The speaker wants to be sure I am listening. 

Being with another person we often sense the person is pleading, “Please listen.” 

Nothing enhances our feelings of worth more than being listened to? When you listen to me you say, “I value you. You are important. I will hear and receive what you say.” 

Martin Buber, a great Jewish thinker, spent his life seeking to share with others the importance of the relation between “I and Thou.” For the clue to this meaning he referred to the role of Spirit. “Spirit is not in the I but between the I and Thou.” The Spirit is known in relationship – Buber would say only in relationship. 

When we really listen to a person, listen with ears and heart that hear, it becomes revelation, and the Spirit comes alive in the relationship. 

Perhaps not only, but certainly in relationship is the primary mode and place of revelation of Spirit. So when I listen, the gap between me and the person to whom I listen is bridged. A sensitivity comes that is not my own. I feel the pain, the frustrations, the anguish— sometimes feeling these, and identifying a problem even when the other is not actually sharing the problem or the feelings. I listen in love and the miracle of I/Thou takes place. The sharing moves to the deep and intimate levels where the person and I really live. The Spirit opens doors hearts effecting change. 

The miraculous thing is that I do not have to have an answer for the person with whom I am sharing. In my listening I become the answer. If something specific is needed the Spirit reveals the “answer” in the listening relationship. 

Are you listening? 

When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”

– Martin Buber

-Maxie Dunnam