Usually, I’m a pretty good listener, or at least I think I am. I get lots of opportunities to listen to hard stories at the clinic. Frustration, anger, and fear are just a few of the themes I hear.

Yesterday, one of our new patients called me and said in a self righteous and loud tone, “Things aren’t going so well for me there!” “Oh really?” I asked, “tell me more,” feeling somewhat responsible because I want everyone to love us here.

Wayne Oates, one of my seminary mentors, once told me “the louder someone yells, the harder I listen.”

Sometimes the louder people yell, the more defensive I become.

But what Wayne was saying was that everyone carries emotional baggage with them, and sometimes the person standing in front of you, or the person on the other end of the phone, has decided to unload the whole load on you. And it ain’t about you.

Sometimes I remember Wayne’s counsel, other days I forget.

You’ve heard of Easy Listening music? Well, Hard Listening ain’t easy. Careful listening to what’s going on behind the scene is a challenge.

But if I can remember that everything the person is saying and feeling is not all about me, I have a chance to be helpful.

Of course, sometimes the frustration, anger, or fear is about me. But that’s another story.