Ministry Tip of the Week
Not all forms of listening are created equal. Some reveal themselves to be more condescension than concern. Even what some call "attentive" listening leaves people alone in their struggle, and keeps a safe distance from the real suffering of those around us. In order to emphasize the true nature of accompaniment, I'd like to distinguish between so-called attentive listening and empathy. For the Christian heart strives to empathize.
The psychological technique known as "attentive listening" is too often results-oriented. The goal is to solve problems and make people "feel heard." These are not bad things necessarily, but accompaniment is person-oriented, relationship centered. The art of listening with empathy seeks first to understand, and to share another's feelings and burdens. (Yes, this is what I need, someone who understands!)
And don't we all desire to be understood? Until we have someone to share the joys and struggles of the journey with us, no amount of listening or advice will do. Christ is that someone. But for those in your life who don't yet know him, or who struggle to believe, that someone is Christ in you (Colossians 1:27).
"Today more than ever we need men and women who, on the basis of their experience of accompanying others, are familiar with processes which call for prudence, understanding, patience, and docility to the Spirit, so that they can protect the sheep from wolves who would scatter the flock. We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders."
(Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 171)
The secret to accompaniment is the kind of listening that changes us. The compassionate disciple finds himself inserted into the life of the one who suffers, and so has the opportunity to bring with him the heart of Christ who alone brings healing and peace to the journey.