Someone who listens is wonderful medicine. Listening is kind, even loving. It is what we are supposed to do.

Yet, it is unnatural.

Life can hammer you. Nasty things happen. Nasty emotions arise. Burdens can be overwhelming.

Merely listening to someone going through hell can alleviate nasty emotions they are feeling. It may not change their circumstances. But the act of vocalizing those emotions to a listening ear loosens their grip.

Maybe it’s because you get a better approxmiation of the situation, and you realize the emotions you are feeling are an overreaction. Maybe it’s because you’re laden with extra anxiety simply for wondering if there is something wrong with you for feeling the way you do, and someone listening makes you realize you’re not crazy.

I know this. When someone listens, and understands, a weight is lifted off your chest. You feel freer. You know you’re not the only one in the world who knows you feel like crap. Someone else knows you feel like crap. You’re not alone.

However, a great evil I have seen is that so many millions of adults don’t want to listen.

Some only want to speak. They want to be the center of attention. They want to project that they are the wise or cool ones. Letting someone else speak steals the spotlight.

Some don’t want to put forth the effort to understand another’s circumstances or perspective. Maybe it’s too much effort. Maybe they are afriad that listening will cause them to feel they should do more than listen.

There are other reasons not to listen. It’s not necessary to list every one.

And, I am guilty of the above. I think we all are. But it is the frequency I see this happening that impels me to say this is evil.

See, listening is caring. It is opening up your heart and mind to the vicissitudes of another soul. To not listen is to not care, and Jesus Christ said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I am absolutely convinced that listening is one of the most fundamental duties we have in fulfilling this Great Commandment.

The world would be better if we listened more.

But you have to be a little selfless. You have to be patient and even courageous. After all, listening to another could prick you. Maybe your problems – or you yourself – aren’t so great. Maybe you have to change your day to help another with theirs. Maybe something else.

It doesn’t matter. We have an obligation to each other. Jesus didn’t say love yourself. He didn’t say puff yourself up with many words. He said love your neighbor as yourself. Part of that love is listening. How could it not be?

So, be decent. Be kind. Listen. You have no idea how profoundly you could help someone by caring even for just five minutes. And do you know how much you could learn by listening? Do you know how much better your perspective could be if you listened to the pain and wisdom of others, day after day, and year after year? I have seen worlds open up by practicing this art.

Ultimately, conversation is not about one-upping others. It’s an exchange of souls. It’s an exchange of information for making life better, for the speaker, and the listener. So why not do your part on both ends? Listen.