Friday, October 2, 2020

The Importance of Listening Well

By: Sarah Geringer 

If you watched the presidential candidate debates this week, you know that interruption was a big problem on all sides. Many people from both sides of the political aisle have expressed their frustration at the level of interruption and the lack of listening skills. We can all learn from this negative example about the importance of listening well, regardless of our political leanings.

When people feel like they are being heard well by a good listener, they feel appreciated and respected. They will even open up more, because they sense the person is trustworthy. When they don't feel like the other person is listening well, they get defensive, going into attack mode or shutting down. They stop listening when they aren't listened to well. That's why learning to listen well is so important; it keeps the door open to relationships.

In our fast-paced society, the art of listening well has faded. Yet I feel that God has brought this important virtue to our national and worldwide attention through a negative example this week. Sometimes we learn best from the hardest things in life. So, let's not miss the opportunity to learn something positive from the negative example we saw.

First and foremost, let's admit that we've all failed at listening well at some point in time. Let's confess that we all have something to learn, rather than pointing fingers at others who lack listening skills. In this way, we can humble ourselves to receive teaching from the Lord.

Here's a scripture to guide us in learning to listen well:

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19 NLT

Let's break this scripture into its three parts to gain a well-rounded view of listening well:

Be quick to listen.

Listening is the first directive of these three parts. We ALL must be QUICK to listen. It needs to be our top priority when interacting with others, especially with those who do not yet know the Lord, so we keep the relational door open. 

Listening shows that we care. It is acknowledging that the speaker is made in the image of God and dearly loved by our Lord. Listening goes beyond common courtesy because it requires us to pause, focus intently on someone else and process their point of view. It doesn't mean that we have to agree - but it does mean that we took the time to carefully consider their perspective.

Be slow to speak.

I'm sure you've heard the saying that God gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason, because we should listen at least twice as much as we talk. Being quick to speak equals interrupting, which is rude and self-centered. Quick to speak means you are reacting rather than responding. 

The Bible instructs us to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and this is nearly impossible to do well if we are quick to speak. Speaking the truth in love requires a time commitment. That time needs to be spent in listening, processing and considering a respectful response. It's better to take time to prepare a considerate response than to fly off the handle and apologize later, after the damage has already been done.

Be slow to get angry.

Oh, how we need this counsel from God in our culture today! We will be slow to listen and quick to speak when we are angry. But if we ask the Holy Spirit to give us the fruit of self-control, he can help us learn to respond with grace and love instead of firing back in anger. 

Since our God is slow to get angry himself (Ex. 34:6), he wants us to follow his example. I have learned that it takes practice to refrain from reacting in anger. Let's start practicing today - let's not wait for another triggering moment to occur. Practice letting the little annoyances go by surrendering them immediately in prayer to God. In that way, you'll be building your self-control muscle so it's ready for bigger challenges.

As Christians, we need to lead the way in listening to others, speaking the truth in love and being slow to get angry. Let's start a revival of this lost art for the benefit of all, and reverse the negative example we saw this week.

Here's a prayer to encourage you today:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being so slow to get angry with me.
You are always available to listen to me.
When you speak to me, it's a beautiful gift.
I praise you for modeling the art of listening well to me.
Help me learn to listen to others much more than I speak.
Give me opportunities to practice self-control rather than reacting.
I want to learn the art of speaking the truth in love.
With your help, I can grow better as listening well every day.
Teach me, Jesus, to listen to others as lovingly as you did.
I believe you can help me become a much better listener.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

Christian meditation can help you when you feel angry and reactive. Want to learn more? Check out my book, Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus.

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Have a wonderful weekend!

Blessings and God's peace to you,

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