Learning to Listen - It Isn't Easy
Thursday - January 7th
Devotionals from the Book of James
Scripture to Read Today: James 1:19-20
To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.
God blessed me with both natural abilities and spiritual gifts related to speaking to others. From an early age, I received incredible opportunities to deliver talks, speeches, and sermons - especially in church settings. People responded by encouraging me to pursue a career in public speaking. Folks who heard me in church settings suggested I should follow God's call into the ministry. Public high school teachers told me to pursue a career in law, politics, or teaching.
With all of the encouragement over the years regarding my ability to speak to audiences and crowds, I have always known my listening weakness. It is not uncommon that someone who loves to talk struggles to be a good listener. So, believe it or not, I have worked hard to improve my active listening skills. I've read books and articles on ways to build these skills. Over the years, I have collected a variety of quotes on the topic. Here are a few of my favorites:
"Listening is an art that requires attention over talent,
spirit over ego, others over self."
"Be as passionate about listening
as you are about being heard."
"Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you.
Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you."
The Bible says much about listening. One student of Scripture listed over one hundred Bible verses that teach us principles regarding this vital life skill. My favorite and the simplest of these verses is found in Proverbs 18:13. "To answer before listening— that is folly and shame." Whether with family, friends, or co-workers, I have far too often proven this verse to be true. I wish I could say after the first incident of answering without listening that I learned my lesson. But I didn't.
Learning to listen like Jesus to others' words, hearts, and stories remains a crucial focus of how God is growing me. Most of us know the pain of failing to listen well and then saying the exact wrong thing. James 1:19 says that "Everyone should be quick to listen." Hmm. Everyone!
James explains the reason listening well should be a high priority for us all. He says miscommunication because of a failure to listen well causes frustration and anger. That kind of anger ultimately gets in the way of the spiritual growth God plans for our lives. A failure to truly hear what others are saying damages our relationships with others and our relationship with God.
Join me on the journey of learning to listen. If you are a talker like I am, it will not be easy. But becoming an active listener will grow your relationship with the Lord and others.
Today, ask God to help you hear the words, hearts, and stories of others. Truly listen before you speak!