What we call listening is usually just trying to be quiet as we formulate our next statement. Real listening is born in the heart and comes from loving our neighbor.
James Breech wrote a book entitled The Silence of Jesus. The title was inspired by Dostoevsky’s chapter on “The Grand Inquisitor” in The Brothers Karamazov, where Jesus is portrayed “as someone who fully understood the human heart, who therefore remained silent when condemned for refusing to resolve mankind’s problems.” In that episode, Breech says, the reason Jesus does not set out to rescue humankind from its miseries is that His love is not a vague, insipid humanitarianism, but a genuine love of the neighbor – the “actual other.”
What we often think of as Christ-like love is actually something quite sinister. It’s feeling sorry for others (pity), or love of mankind (humanitarianism), or self-denial (altruism), or wanting to be in union with others (sentimentalism) – each of which is based on selfishness. Those counterfeits are actually about us, not our neighbor.
In listening with real love we set aside our rights. This includes our right to be understood, our right to be heard and yes, our right to be right.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.