“The first duty of love is to listen.” – Paul Tillich
I grew up in a dysfunctional family of six, my mother, father, and three brothers. It seemed like most of us regularly interrupted someone when they were trying to speak. It was like you had to jump in and override someone else to have any possible chance of speaking in an undisciplined setting. To top things off, there was very little real communication in the family system; I felt like we were six people who happened to live in the same house. I was indeed lost…
Most of the meetings I attended used a three-minute timer when members shared. This was to ensure that as many people as possible would have the opportunity to speak. I will never forget my delight in knowing that I had a full three minutes to share and no one was going to interrupt me! It provided me with a feeling of peace, worthiness, being respected, etc. Cross-talk was not permitted either, so I didn’t have to be concerned about people making unwanted comments or unsolicited advice, opening me up to be more candid. What a treat and huge change from the days of being with my biological family! How healthy, considerate, and loving, yes, loving.
Just as important as those practices were for me, they were beneficial to my colleagues too. I learned to focus and be an attentive listener to others when they were sharing. I was showing them respect, caring, and love.
Who would have ‘thunk’ a simple little timer could be so powerful a tool for emotional health and well-being, and for developing good communication skills?
“When we listen closely to what someone is saying, we pay homage to God by the simple act of honoring another person’s worth.”
– In God’s Care*: Daily Meditations on Spirituality in Recovery, February 2
*As We Understand God