Listening: Leisure is a Quality of Spirit

blog listen listening spirit Jun 26, 2019

Listening well is becoming a precious commodity. Have you noticed the speed with which people interact? 

Picture yourself at the grocery checkout line. There is friendly banter, of course, but you must be rushed along so that the person behind you doesn’t get agitated.  

What about the fast food drive-thru? More quick talking and moving so that you can get in, out and gone.

If you are a parent, you might find yourself hurrying your children along so that you can get to the next thing or just get done with whatever is next on the to-do list.

When was the last time you had a leisurely conversation? Do you find yourself talking fast, and cutting people short so that you can get on with whatever you were doing?

We may assume that others are busy and we are likely in their way. Or we think the same about ourselves: I don’t have time for this! We’ve been talking about these things in An Unhurried Community

Most people these days don’t have someone who just simply listens to them. Many are over-connected on tech gadgets and yet are starving relationally. Listening is one very practical gift we can give to our fellow travelers that may soothe their soul. 

In The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson speaks about listening. He is referring to pastoral listening in this quote, but I think it translates to any one of us who is willing to take the time to give the gift of an unhurried listening ear.

“....listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s only for five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that ambience of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance. 

Speaking to people does not have the same personal intensity as listening to them. The question I put to myself is not “How many people have you spoken to about Christ this week?” but “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?” 

The number of persons listened to must necessarily be less than the number spoken to. Listening to a story always takes more time than delivering a message, so I must discard my compulsion to count, to compile the statistics that will justify my existence.

I can’t listen if I’m busy. When my schedule is crowded, I’m not free to listen. I have to keep my next appointment; I have to get to the next meeting. But if I provide margins to my day there is ample time to listen.” (Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, Eerdmans Publishing:  Grand Rapids, MI, 1993, p. 21-22)


  • What does it feel like when someone truly listens to you? How might you give that same gift to another?
  • Are you often rushed? What would it take to relax your inner pace so that you could be more present with others?
  • Who is one person that you can make time to listen to this week?

Photo by Mael BALLAND on Unsplash