In general, people are great at speaking, but not so good at listening.
Christians are not exempt from this phenomenon.
That’s why James exhorts us to be “quick to listen,” but “slow to speak…” (James 1:19). That’s why those of us who spend a lot of our time listening to the Word of God preached still find blog posts on effective listening beneficial.
Listening is an art many of us have yet to master.
Have you considered that to listen is to love?
Although I’ve not yet read Life Together from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I’ve been challenged recently by several quotes from that book on the importance of listening.
“The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s Word, but also lends us God’s ear. We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to “offer” something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening…Those who cannot listen long and patiently will always be talking past others, and finally no longer will even notice it. Those who think their time is too precious to spend listening will never really have time for God and others, but only for themselves and for their own words and plans…This impatient, inattentive listening really despises the other Christian and finally is only waiting to get a chance to speak and thus to get rid of the other.“
Are you just waiting for an opportunity to speak?
How many times have you been talking with someone whom you know “is only waiting to get a chance to speak” and isn’t really listening at all? I’ve experienced it and it hurts.
But then I’m left considering the many times I’ve played such a waiting game, thinking to myself, “Hurry up and finish because I’ve actually got something important to say.” Oh, the arrogance! How unloving is my heart!
To listen is to love.
It’s not easy to love; it’s not easy to listen.
It’s not easy.
Our sinful heart doesn’t want to value others’ words above our own.
Yet, just as God lends His ear to us, we should be willing to lend our ear to others. Our practice should be one of “quick to listen,” but “slow to speak…” (James 1:19). It would also aid the depth of our conversations with non-Christians, and the geek side of me really wants to remind you it would also aid your effective use of social media.
My challenge to you today: as you seek to love your neighbour this week, make a point to intentionally serve and love another by offering them your full, attentive, listening ear.