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Whole Body Listening

By Marlene Houk

Burke CountyMarlene Houk Burke County


His steps quickened. His heart pounded. The smoke swirled around him as he approached the cause of the fire. Highly combustible and flammable, the sawdust collector at the furniture plant exploded in flames. Supervisors scurried to the scene. The plant manager bolted from his chair, darted through the door and into the smoke. And the corporate accountant, my supervisor, raced to help. Fortunately, most of the employees had left, but some remained. How many needed rescuing? How many were injured? Would more sawdust explode?

Standard operating procedures for emergencies exist for almost every company. Many employees practice scenarios and produce manuals intended to save lives, encourage working together, and promote the corporate mission.

I wonder if commerce realizes how closely they follow biblical concepts? The Bible teaches preventive procedures in great detail, and the story of Abigail offers a story of a divine drama that trains the Christian to prepare for issues that may arise. In this true story, Abigail teaches us how to defuse anger and support leaders.

Abigail, an intelligent woman is front stage in a drama of life and death played out in this biblical chapter.  Using whole body listening, she prevented the future King David from allowing his anger to control him, saved dozens of lives, and gently reminded the man after God’s own heart of his place in God’s will.

Abigail’s husband, Nabal, owned a large sheep operation close to Carmel. David had relocated close to Nabal’s vast acreage after the prophet Samuel died. King Saul sought for nine years to kill David because he was a threat to Saul’s kingship. When David moved close to Nabal, he and his 600 soldiers protected his shepherds, shearers, and thousands of sheep for months. David instructed his men to treat them with respect and honesty. In return, the culture of that area would call for a reward for protection.

But, when David’s men asked Nabal for anything that they wanted to give, he rebuffed them with scorn, accusing David of treason. David, anointed by God to become king, exploded in anger, promising to kill every male in Nabal’s clan. Abigail heard about it from one of the servants and hastily commanded her servants to load up a donkey with prepared food. She told her servants to hurry to meet David, and she would follow on another donkey.

Hidden in the drama of unfolding scenes, we discover wisdom for defusing anger. Abigail, a woman of great understanding, used a method that teachers use yet today. Called Whole Body Listening, the method is a checklist of the way students are encouraged to listen in class. Some of the questions to ask themselves are:

  1. Am I making eye contact?
  2. Does my body language indicate interest?
  3. Are my words incendiary or peaceful?
  4. Do I try to restore pre-frontal cortex thinking and a sense of perspective?

Abigail used Whole Body Listening. She used her body, soul, and spirit to respond to a potentially lethal situation with grace, courage, and wisdom.

Physically, her body language indicated great concern, a plan she quickly enacted, and a path she knew would collide with David and his army. When she sees David, she hurriedly dismounts and throws herself at his feet. She used her pre-frontal cortex instead of allowing her emotions to control her.

Abigail used her soul when she met David. She accepted responsibility for the situation (reflected in today’s customer service when the company’s representative apologizes for your trouble). She empathized with him. (1 Samuel 25:25) She found something to be thankful for. (1 Samuel 25:26) She offered a gift much like a company would refund the money or give away a free meal. (1 Samuel 25: 27) She complimented him. (1 Samuel 25:28)

All of these offer support and encouragement in the heat of the battle of controlling our emotions. Abigail used her mind, her will, and her emotions, i.e., her soul, to convey to David her concern for him.

Then Abigail used her spirit to discern how best to gently guide David back to using his thinking brain rather than being controlled by his emotions. She reminded him that God had a plan for him. (1 Samuel 25:29) and he shouldn’t do something to mar that plan. (1 Samuel 25:31)

We should react to the fire of our friend’s anger with the same urgency that Abigail piled 5 dressed sheep, 2 bottles of wine, 200 loaves, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 fig cakes on one donkey and raced away on another toward the thundering sounds of 400 soldiers determined to kill her loved ones and those in her responsibility.

Abigail used Whole Body Listening and encourages us to see amazing results when we follow her steps to defuse anger. We listen with our body language. We listen with our soul. We use our spirit, guided by the Holy Spirit, to discern what support they need to decide to release their anger. Judgment, condemnation, or harsh words add fuel to the fire. Gentleness, love, and concern pour the cooling water of the Holy Spirit on their rage.

The sawdust collector fire gradually diminished, and normalcy returned. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, more prepared for the next time.

Use Whole Body Listening—body, soul, and spirit—when defusing the fire of anger in your friend or a leader.


Marlene is an author and teacher of Bible studies. She may be reached at

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Blue Ridge Christian News covers Avery County, Burke County, McDowell County, Mitchell County, Yancey County, and Madison County in North Carolina, and Christian news from around the country.