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Are We Really Listening?

ARE WE REALLY LISTENING? James 1:19 gives us some excellent advice. “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” Quick to listen! Candidly, most of us would rather speak, and when others speak, many times we can’t wait for them to finish, so we can talk. But are we really listening, I mean really listening. Also are we judging the talkers before we completely hear them out? In other words are we quick to speak and quick to get angry.

In our world today, there is so much talking, so much anger. Whether it is about politics, pandemics, or prejudice, people have opinions and they want to express those beliefs without first determining if what they are sharing is valid. What has happened to us as a nation and especially as a church in that we don’t want to take the time to listen?

I try, not always successfully, to listen and understand before I express what I think. So for example, why would I comment about the racial situation without first listening to many people of color? Why should I comment about the pandemic without listening to many medical experts about the Covid virus? On a much smaller scale, why would I know what my wife is thinking without first listening to what is on her heart? (I am sure she will remind me of this last sentence).

Good listening skills create the best of both worlds for talker and listener. First, it gives respect to people. Second, it gives the listener more information regarding the talker and his subject. Third, this is turn facilitates better conversation and many times the talker now wants to listen to the other person because of the respect and interest shown.

Being a good listener has so many benefits, too numerous to mention. But here from the Scriptures are some that speak volumes to me:

· Good listening brings wise correction to your life (Proverbs 15:31)

· Good listening helps you to make better decisions. Proverbs 18:13, “What a shame, what folly, to give advice before listening to the facts!”

· It puts you in tune to with the Spirit. In Revelation, chapters 2-3, we have the messages to the seven churches. At the end of every message the exhortation is to hear and listen to the Spirit so we can understand what He is saying. Man, I hope in a conversation with the Heavenly Father, that we are listening more than talking.

I had a friend that used to say all the time to “listen for the rustle of a robe and the sound of sandaled feet.” This was a poetic way of saying that we need to be listening for Jesus whenever and wherever.

You want to be a better listener? Here are some suggestions:

· Realize that the other person’s speaking is of greater value than you wanting to talk. In essence this is the principle of the cross; laying down our lives for others.

· Understand what they are saying without judgment. It is so normal to react to people’s comments without really understanding where they are coming from. The listener needs to be committed to discovering the speaker’s intent and not just react to the words spoken. Even if the speaker is off base, a strong attempt should always be made to hearing them out before you respond.

· Remove distractions. Many times listeners are looking somewhere other than the speaker’s eyes; they are acting fidgety as if in a hurry; or glancing at some written work before them with pencil in hand. To be successful, put aside objects that distract and pick an environment that is conducive for listening.

· Don’t respond too quickly with what you want to say without hearing the other person out. In essence don’t try to finish the speaker’s sentence. Responding too quickly can demoralize people and produce an unwillingness to share in the future.

God longs for us to sit with him and listen. Lonely people crave for listening, caring people. Various groups desire to be heard and not judged or misunderstood.

Don’t you also want someone to really listen to you? Don’t you want someone to care what you think, to take time to know you; someone who is glad to hear anything that you want to say. Doesn’t every human being want that?

The other day I was struck by this one sentence in Psalm 40:6. The Psalmist confesses that God forced him to listen and this was his reply, “Now that you made me listen, I finally understand.”


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