James 1:19 – “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger…”
Proverbs 15:31 – “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.”
Proverbs 18:13 – “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
Matthew 11:15 – “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Most of us hear, but how many of us listen? We hear sounds, words, sentences, and concepts but do we truly listen? Many people ask a question and before the person being questioned can respond, they speak further about what is in their heart. Someone said, “Listening is easy, Hearing is hard!” Listening is one of the easiest things we do and yet one of the most difficult. Someone said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak.”
Listening does not demand the initiative or energy required in speaking. However, I have heard some speak that I’m not sure that is applicable because there seemed to be not thought in what they said, it just leaped out. Romans 10:17 declares, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
We learn to Hear through the Word of Christ. As we learn to hear faith is developed in our hearts because what we hear, comprehend, embrace, and become one with produces confidence in us that brings forth faith. Faith is not an expression of our activity, but of our receiving the Words of Christ. If we are to be victorious in this life we are to ‘Hear with faith’ (Galatians 3:2,5).
Good Listening Requires Patience. I read a comment by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that speaks to this issue powerfully. He said, “a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say, is an impatient, inattentive listening that is only waiting a chance to speak.” Presuming or assuming what the speaker is going to say is dangerous if not disrespectful. It screams of the other person has a lack of value in our eyes.
Good Listening Requires Concentration and means that we have to give our full attention to the speaker and what they are saying. Few people begin with what is most important or their deepest concern. Most talk around something before coming to the meat of the matter. We need to wait for the entire train to pass before crossing the tracks.
Good Listening is an Act of Love. If we listen with ‘half an ear’ we convey the idea that we are only waiting for our chance to speak. That conveys the idea that we are anxious to be rid of them and transmit the idea that what they are saying is of lesser importance than what we desire to say. Poor listening rejects, but good listening embraces and soothes. Good listening is united with the mind of Christ and flows from a humble heart that counts others more significant than themselves. (Philippians 2:3). It not only looks out for its own interests but also the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4). It is patient and kind and is an expression of love. (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Good Listening asks Perceptive Questions. Proverbs 18:2 tells us that it is the fool who, “takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:13 declares that such a person, “gives an answer before he hears.” The writer made a profound statement in Proverbs 20:5, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
Good Listening hears what is said and perceptively asks open-ended questions that do not invite a simple yes or no answer but probes beneath the surface. It watches for nonverbal communication but never interrogates or pries. It seeks to draw out the issues that may not have been shared so there can be a healing, not to pry.
Good Listening is Ministry. Bonhoeffer declared that there are many times when “listening can be a greater service than speaking.” Sometimes people do not need to hear what you want to say but desire and need the opportunity to open their hearts and unburden them. If they perceive you are listening only to the extent it allows you an opportunity to speak, they clam up and your words do damage rather than provide healing and hope.
I am convinced that those who have a secure relationship with God are the best listeners. I agree with Bonhoeffer when he warned: “He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life… Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.”
There are many times when someone needs us to have hearing ears and be good listeners more than then need our deep wisdom. They do not need confirmation or affirmation as much as they need a sense that someone cares enough to simply listen. I believe that Good Listening is a means of grace that is powerful far beyond what most have experienced. It may be among our most difficult activities, but it is one of the most therapeutic things we can do for others. I believe that Luke 6:38 applies here. If we sow listening, we will receive listening from others when we need it.
God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!