By the far the most important form of attention we can give … is listening … True listening is love in action.

M. Scott Peck, M.D.

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Some time ago I had a conversation with a man, a recovering alcoholic, who was less than a year into his sobriety.  He had been an accomplished executive in Europe and was, then, unemployed.

In the course of our conversation, he lamented that his travel had seriously injured his marriage.  I asked him if his wife ever complained of his absence or showed signs of disapproval as to his travel.  “No,” he said.  He offered that his wife was a beautiful, reserved and sedate woman.

I asked him why he assumed that his travel hurt his marriage, injured his wife if she had never said that she objected to it.  He looked puzzled, and sat without response.  I then said to him: “Be careful about assuming things of others – better to attend to them as they present themselves, tell their story.”  And I went on to say that receiving another is critical to a relationship, that receiving another is the essence of a relationship and when that is breached we are, in effect, denying the other and their autonomy.”  His response: “Gee, I never thought of that.”

Truth is he had given no thought to the possibility that this “hard-charging, high-powered” executive might have been an over-powering presence to a quiet person.  Receiving others as they are is so important.  Listening is receiving.

Listening is love in action, an intimate deed – something sacred.  When you take another’s word in, you take them in and you receive not just them but the God who made them.

Listen.  To love – listen.

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