A change of plans met me very early on this chilly February morning while I was towing a cup of Joe from the kitchen to my laptop. I intended to write a very specific message that has been rattling around in my head for weeks. But that plan was interrupted by a recent and haunting memory of Christians not listening to one another. There was no argument. In fact, nobody said a word about the lack of listening in that room on that day. I’m not sure why God brought me this idea today. But he did…so here goes.
If we’re not listening to others, that means we’re listening to OURSELVES. And if we’re listening to ourselves, we CANNOT be listening to God. That’s the theme. Here’s the story.
Hearing Is Easy. Listening Is Hard.
We increasingly listen with the presumption that we know what others are thinking and what they “plan to say.” We compound that mistake by putting together our own words even as they speak. We are merely waiting, impatiently, for our chance to speak (James 1:19).
This is a form of arrogance that, at minimum, diminishes and rejects the person speaking.
Learning to listen requires discipline, effort, and intentionality. Here are my top five tips:
ONE: Relax on the outside but focus intently on listening inside while looking at the other person.
TWO: Ask open-ended questions that encourage others to drill below the surface.
THREE: Listen with an eye of giving affirmation to their feelings and not giving “answers.”
FOUR: Turn my listening from passive to active with others in the foreground.
FIVE: Always be on the look out for what God might say or suggest.
It requires perpetual self-examination to always being aware of what God is doing and wants to do in our life and for OTHERS through him. And that’s not easy by any measure.
If I am the person who is always talking, I cannot be listening to others. That’s impolite at the very minimum. But it also TAKES GOD OUT OF PLAY. Out of play to animate my empathy for OTHERS with his love and grace. Out of play to learn more about ME, what changes I need to make in MYSELF, and what he would have me do for HIM.
I ask God to help me become a better listener. To help me WANT to hear what people say and, in the process, be looking for what HIS response would be and always alert for opportunities to share his Good News.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Are you listening more than talking? Are you sure? Take the hearing vs listening test. Be honest with your percentages of how much you talk versus how much you listen.
“The Lord has given us eyes to see with and ears to listen with.” Proverbs 20:12