4 Gifts of Honor: Part 2 Listening

24.Feb.2011by Karen in First Steps· 1 comment

Today we look at the second of four gifts that encapsulate key factors that enabled me to successfully honor my parents. If you missed the first gift, you may read it here.

“Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.  The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice. [Prov 23:22-25 – 22]

There are many ways to listen. Listening often begins with you sharing and opening up about your own life — what you are doing, dreaming, thinking. You want your parents to be more open with you? Then begin by being more open with them, expecting nothing in return.

Perhaps this means you write them a letter or postcard. Maybe call them on the phone. You don’t have to talk a long time and you don’t even need to say much. Just call to say “hey” or share some minor incident from the day or about your children or grandchildren.

Ask them for advice. This can be pretty scary, because you don’t know what they will say. It also is humbling, because it is admitting that you do not have all the answers. But God promises to give grace to the humble, and we all can use a little grace. Ask what they did in a similar situation or what things you should consider as you make a particular decision.

These conversations open dialogues that are usually not very threatening to the parent (although you might feel scared to pieces). It shows parents that you value them, their opinion, and their involvement in your life. It lays a wonderful groundwork for future communications.

But initiating dialogue through sharing is just half of listening. You must also be willing to hear what they say. It is important to be careful not assume you already know what they will say. Inwardly rolling your eyes and thinking, “They’ll probably tell me that story again”, is not the mindset of a listener. Listening involves not only hearing their words, but also their tone and body language.

A listener will find out what is important to them – deciphering their priorities and concerns (not getting them to act upon your concerns). From experience, I can say that what concerns you and what concerns them will not always be the same. You may be panicking over the daily hike they are making to the laundry room (which always seems to be in the basement) while they might be concerned about drafts in the house. You are alarmed that they might have a heatstroke when mowing, while they are worried about spending money for something they don’t need.

A great listener knows when they are being asked to act and when they are just being asked to lend an ear. Developing great listening skills is a learning curve, with plenty of opportunity for mistakes and ample doses of humility. Still the rewards are great – an even better relationship with your parents!

Listening is a beautiful gift. Start honoring your parents with it today.

Additional Resources

Although none of these books are specifically directed to children of aging parents, all three provide suggestions to improve relationships.

Listening and Caring Skills in Ministry: A Guide for Groups and Leaders by John Savage

As children of aging parents we often times have our own perception of what the problems are and our own solution to the problem before even discussing them with our parents. The author points out that the preconceived idea actually interferes with listening and then teaches how to overcome it. He also discusses how to aside our agenda and how this helps us really hear the other person. The practical suggestions to learning listening skills could help you do a better job caring for your aging parents. (Original target audience are those in ministry.)

The DNA of Relationships by Dr. Gary Smalley

The three main points of the book are that God created us for relationship, with a capacity to choose, and to take responsibility for ourselves. That explained, the author focuses on how conflicts with others are really the result of one of two fears: loss of connection or loss of control. Allowing ourselves to be controlled by “fear buttons”, reacting to the actions and words of others, result in damaged relationships. Gaining understanding of ours and others “fear buttons” helps us to make better choices, assume responsibility for our actions, do a better job to honor and appreciate others. (Original target audience are married couples.)

Study guide available on line: http://smalley.cc/images/dnastudyguide.pdf

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman

The book focuses on describing 5 ways different people express and interpret love. Understanding this about yourself and your parents will help you become a better listener. It will help you learn to respond to them in their love language. (Original target audience are married couples.)

More in the Series

The titles of each of these gifts came from an online sermon about treating parents right.


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