Listening to Hear not Speak
Listening can be one of the most difficult tasks anyone has. It takes a very special person to listen, to truly listen, to someone. Often we find our listening more of a means of deciding what we are going to say, how we will respond, if we must defend, etc… Listening is indeed a discipline that I know I have had to perfect over the years. Often I found myself listening to someone but really I was already thinking about what I was going to say when they were finished. When this is our attitude of listening much is missed in the conversation and even misinterpreted due to a desire to respond instead of understand. The Bible calls us to be hearers, that is to be listeners longing to hear.
James 1:19 says “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…” What a challenge this presents to us in todays modern world where the dilemma is that everyone is easily offended. When someone begins to talk it is almost immediate that someone will become angry and stop listening. The proverbial baby is tossed out with the bath water and instead of listening we are ready to angrily defend our position. We quickly choose to listen to speak instead of hear. Christian, we are called to a much different position.
In Christ we are called to listen to hear and that means not thinking about anything else but what is being said. That means in our witnessing we must truly listen to objections and realize that every objection is a chance to grow in our own walk as well as continue the conversation. That means we must hear our brother or sister out in times of conflict instead of shutting them out understanding that through truly listening we may gain a better vantage point as to why the conflict began and let true reconciliation begin. Listening means we care. Not jumping to conclusions and getting angry means we adhere to the Biblical model we find here in James.
The truth is that listening with intent and with Christlike ears takes time and practice. It means we have to swallow our fleshly pride at times and press back the anger that stops us from hearing. Yes, anger stops us from hearing, from listening, and from understanding because it puts our selves at the center. Verse 20 of James 1 goes on to say “…for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” When we learn to listen we also learn to suppress the fleshly desire to attack and devour one another. Take time to truly listen today and remember the love of Christ which so richly dwells within us and it is that love we show when we truly listen to another’s heart and then, and only then, prayerfully answer.