Helping Others To Listen…When Man Listens


Helping Others To Listen…When Man Listens by Cecil Rose for The Oxford Group

We can fail through sentimentality. Either our human affection for the other person, or our dislike of going too deep into our own life, leads us to idealize, to soften down harsh facts, or to stay the probe. We call it being charitable. Actually it is sheer betrayal, and the other person may have cause one day to curse us for our lack of the kind of love which loves enough to hurt. We can fail through haste. We seize on the symptoms of the trouble and haven’t the patience to get down to causes. A good deal depends on the thoroughness with which we have faced ourselves. It is not only that honest selfknowledge helps us in the diagnosis of others, but our own deepest discoveries about ourselves, shared with him, may be what is needed to help the other man to see himself

The outcome of this work of helping a man to become acquainted with himself should be his own willing confession of all he has so far seen.

The next stage will test our restraint. Our human impulse is to give advice, to point out the steps that other persons ought to take, to rearrange their life ourselves. Actually the only thing we can rightly do is to help them to listen, not to us, but to God. Somewhere at the base of their life God is speaking to them, convicting them about the past and insistently pointing the new way. It is tremendously important that they should discover this themselves. If they listen to us instead of to God, they will depend on us instead of Him. That is fatal. We must do no more at this stage than help them to listen for the deepest voices in their own souls, until they know that God is speaking and make their first response in trust and obedience to Him alone.

When the other person has arrived at this point and is face to face with steps to be taken, and a call to be answered, we must be ready lovingly and firmly to hold them up to the decision that must be made. Most people try to run away when they reach this stage. They try to postpone the decision, though they know it must be made. They try to make it by installments, or offer to face any other steps except the one which really matters. A friend who will not let them run away is invaluable. It is wise also to remember how much it helps if the decision is put into words perhaps the words of a prayer as we kneel with our friend. We should see, too, that the one who has surrendered makes the fact known as soon as possible to other people. Anything vague and indefinite about the act of surrender is a source of later weakness.

There follows a very demanding part of our work for men and women. Surrender to God has begun the new life, but the one we have helped so far, needs the most patient aid in working out the implications of that surrender, establishing a new discipline of life, making necessary restitutions for the past, and getting into action for God.

It is a crime to expose new-born babies. It is an even worse crime to leave our spiritual children without careful individual attention. We are too easily content to push them into a job in the Church or urge them to attend meetings–mistaking attendance at meetings for real Christian fellowship. Fellowship is always between two individuals. It can only exist in a company of people when it already exists between the individuals composing the company. We shall, then, need to keep in close touch with these spiritual children of ours, helping them to see the fuller implications of their surrender, and particularly planning with them daring action; for fellowship is found most of all when we step into God-guided action together. An employer and one of his workmen plan how to put the whole factory under the guidance of God. Men, who were previously trade rivals, seek God’s plan for the industry in which they are engaged. A number of people, seeing their responsibility for their city, plan its capture for God. In such action fellowship becomes real, and our spiritual muscles are stretched in healthy growth.

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