I’m a listener. I hear almost everything and 99% of the time I listen intently when someone is talking to me. I especially listen when it’s something that matters to them. This has not always been the case. I almost always had an opinion on everything that I HAD to voice – even if it meant interrupting. Then I discovered the power of listening. It probably started happening when I became a youth minister at a small church in south Alabama. I was surrounded by voices – some positive, some negative, some indifferent. I had to filter what was important and if I was talking, it was hard to do that. I was also surrounded by young people who had a lot to say but sometimes masked their voice in order to hide things like insecurity, fear, low self-esteem, and even guilt. That was about the time I realized people say a lot when they don’t use words or direct address. So, in response, I began to listen and observe. The benefits of listening are astounding. You learn deeper compassion. You learn to think of others first – which in this day and age is HARD. You pick up on a person’s hurt before they voice it. You develop an appreciation for your personal blessings and trials.
If I can encourage you to do anything for someone you know that has experienced a hard time, a loss, a trial of some sort then let me encourage you to listen. Stop talking and listen. Don’t avoid hard topics because it makes you uncomfortable or you think it will make the other person uncomfortable. Try to take your attention and put it somewhere other than yourself just for a short time. You might learn that listening can result in deeper understanding of something you didn’t understand before. It will definitely deepen your relationship.
Listening is hard because we usually have a lot to say – especially women. And listening doesn’t require you to give a deep theological response. Honestly, I would prefer a simple, “That must be hard. How can I specifically pray for ____?” Give it a shot today. Listen. Stop talking and listen.
I’m not much for The Message paraphrase of the Bible, but sometimes it is succinct and to the point. Proverbs 18:13 says, “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.” So if you struggle to listen, just tell yourself to stop being stupid and rude! That would be a good enough reminder for me.