People Are Not Gumball Machines – Listening & Loving
Recent times have shown that if you put 100 people into a stressful situation, you will have 500 opinions on how the government should be run, where money should go, and who to blame. Even in speaking to people I agree with, I often leave conversations exhausted because of rampant hate and dishonor. Times are very complicated; people are without incomes, afraid for their lives, and inundated with information. I hope this article can be a voice of hope and clarity in how we should respond to the people and situations around us.
Response 1: Reacting & Grumbling
Reacting is acting without thinking. It is often accompanied without a desire to understand the other. It’s prideful and lazy, and it even happens around people we agree with. Reacting is how we all tend to respond to situations. Many of life’s situations require us to react. If there’s a red light in front of you, hit the brakes. If your house is cold, put on a sweater.
It makes sense that if you put a quarter into a gumball machine, that you will get a gumball out of it. But people are not gumball machines. If you throw one situation at 100 people, you will get something very different out of each one. To think otherwise would be to assume that every single one of those 100 people is the same. Reacting to people without seeking to understand ends up alienating the other person and isolating yourself, because no one else in this world is you.
Grumbling is often a result of expectations not being met. A mark of maturity is not complaining or grumbling when you don’t get what you want. If you’re like me, this is very difficult. I have noticed in my life that consistent complaining will breed a heart of bitterness and ungratefulness. It was a major fault of the Israelites in Moses’ time and it’s a major fault of people today.
Unfortunately, constant grumbling also leads to constant blaming of others. Searching to blame instead of being constructive has done nothing but cause hurt in the world. I’ll let you rack your brain for the numerous historical examples.
In summary, reacting and grumbling lead to your own isolation and bitterness.
Response 2: Listening & Loving
Listening is being patient and seeking to understand. Listening is more than letting the other person speak and then crushing their opinion with the latest and greatest facts. Listening is asking questions of motive and learning why someone feels a certain way.
Listening doesn’t happen in shouting matches or even in reading articles online (like this one). Listening happens in your relationships. Listening has been proven to be one of the most powerful contributors to the well-being of healthy relationships. Ask anyone with a successful business or anyone with a loyal best friend or anyone with a thriving marriage.
Loving is acting with someone else’s good in mind. It is seeking another person’s needs over yours. It is advocating and serving in kindness and humility. However, loving is impossible unless our hearts are transformed.
Loving is tough, but it produces joy and gratitude. To love others, we must first be transformed in knowing that we are loved and cared for by God. Otherwise, we will always come back to worrying about our own needs and wants. Knowing that God will care for you and your needs produces the joy and gratitude needed to fuel a life of loving others. Gratitude is the evidence of a transformed heart, and loving others is the fruit of that heart.
In summary, listening and loving lead to deeper relationships and a life of joy and gratitude.
So why don’t we listen and love?
Well, there are a few reasons. One is hurt and grief. I don’t say this to excuse us from not listening and loving, but we must recognize that many of us have experienced deep loss and hurt in this season and work to heal so that we can operate in love. Another is fear—of losing comforts, health, security, etc. But we must experience love more deeply, because fear cannot exist within perfect love. Another is pride. Often we don’t want to serve each other, because it takes work and because it’s really hard. But we must not grow weary in loving each other.
Listening and loving is a life of sacrifice, and it is eternally valuable. So despite our political climate, social status, or net worth, let us love and speak life in all circumstances.
Alumnae of Colorado State University living in Denver, CO
All views expressed on this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A., U.S. Missions, and The General Council of the Assemblies of God.