Listen With Your Heart

Do you listen with your heart, your head... or both?
When others ask you how you're doing, are you honest?
Sometimes pasting on a smile with a "positive attitude" is a great cover up.
Sometimes behind that smile is a heart that is actually withering away.
Or cursing, in conflict, devastated, angry or confused. 
Sometimes that forced positive can even take the form of denial.
It's okay to face the facts- healthy even.
It's happened to me several times recently.
 I was being honest with someone about how I felt about some hurts inside of me that have impacted me deeply. I didn't go into the gory details, just in general.
Well, they asked.
But what I experienced from them was interesting.
Instead of empathy                      I received "well, at least you....." and "you think that's bad"
Instead of compassion                 I received platitudes.
Instead of validation                     I heard about how I should try to see it from the other side.
Instead of a hug                           I received uncomfortable silence.
I'm not sure what I was looking for, but I instinctively knew those things weren't it!
I don't blame them. They probably didn't know any better.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't embrace a positive outlook on life. Of course we should!
We choose our response to things that happen to us.
But when that's all we offer to encourage others, it falls flat.
It's like putting a little Band aid on a gushing,
bleeding wound and expecting instant healing.
Honestly, this experience was actually good for me though.
(although it left me disappointed)
It was a good reminder to really listen when people confide in me.
For most of us, it takes an enormous amount of energy to spill our guts.
It takes courage to trust someone with our heart, because it's risky.
I was reminded to:
Listen and respond with empathy                                 Resist the urge to compare hardship
Flood them with compassion                                        Resist the quick fix answer
Validate their feelings, even if they are skewed           Their feelings are very real, hear them
Sometimes all they need is a hug and a prayer           Show simple comfort and love   
For most people, hardships will see an end. For others, their battle may never end.
So let's spur one another on with encouragement and compassion.
And when you take the time to ask, take the time to listen with your heart.

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