Is listening the ultimate healer?

A few weeks ago we lost a gem of a human being. I didn’t know much about Michael Sharp, but when I heard an NPR story about a 34 year old Kansan who was changing the world.. starting in the war torn Congo..

Michael Sharp’s story sparked my attention.

What made Michael so effective and so impactful in the Congo? He was known for walking around unarmed, in his plaid shirts and sitting in the shade of banana trees exchanging stories with rebels.

Yep, he just listened to them.

The rebels are complex human beings, with stories and emotions. He could form trusting relationships only once they really KNEW each other. Then negotiations and productive discussions could take place.

Progress is only made once we realize the complexities of our existence.

If this normal guy from Kansas could see Congolese rebels as more than just “bad guys”.. why can’t we?

It is really easy to simply categorize terrorists, criminals, addicts… the worst of the worst as “bad guys”.  It is easier to not care when people are “bad guys”.. not fathers, mothers, sons, daughters who have experienced overwhelming trials.

It is easier to lock people up and drop bombs when it is happening to “bad guys”.

It may be a tough pill to swallow, but we all do it.

Maybe the first step to change is listening to people, so we can care.

This made me think of my schooling as a mental health counselor. We are trained in different techniques and counseling theories, but do you know what is the most impactful aspect of therapy?

Listening to people.

Not just sitting in a chair and zoning out. Actually actively listening and caring.

Maybe this is a betrayal to my profession, but essentially the most effective aspect of counseling.. you can find in a good friend.

We can all live like Michael Sharp and take a moment to listen to one another.

Wouldn’t it be nice if “How are you?” wasn’t just a greeting and an actual question? From someone who wouldn’t give you a crazy look if you responded with something other than “Good!”

Lets all take a note from Michael Sharp’s short but impactful life and make a difference in this world by just listening.

NPR- Michael Sharp “He Risked His Life to make Peace”


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