Listening is one of those soft skills that goes underappreciated. We don’t really notice good listening until we need someone to be a good listener to us.
Maybe you’ve been told you’re a really good listener. I've proudly worn my “trusted confidant” badge around my friends who opened up to me about their personal lives, and have also found myself completely ignoring someone in conversation while watching a YouTube video of a cat eating watermelon…
Why do I do this?
Whatever the reason, the Bible has something to say about listening in James 1:19: “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” If this is a description of what Christians should be, I’m not exactly a poster child. So don’t take this from me as something I’ve mastered, but something I’m still learning and re-learning.
Whether you already are a professional listener (I think they call those counselors) or you realize you’re nowhere close, I’m convinced we all should seek to improve our listening. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, here are some thoughts about how the gospel applies to the skill of listening well:
Listening puts another first. In Philippians 2, Paul reminds us of the example of Christ. Good listening requires us to count others more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3) and to look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:4). When we remember we have all we need in Christ, it frees us to listen wholeheartedly to one another.
Listening makes us wiser. Proverbs teaches that even fools are considered wise when they keep silent (Prov 17:28). Likewise, "a fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion" (Prov. 18:2). I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s not how I want to be remembered. Instead, we’d do better to seek understanding and knowledge (Prov 18:15). It’s good listening that gives us the ability to learn and become wise.
Listening prepares us to respond appropriately. There's a difference between listening and waiting your turn to speak again. One focuses on someone else, the other on self. Sometimes good listening is to be silent and give someone room to think. Other times, it means speaking words of truth and grace. We can’t know what’s best if we’re not listening!
• • •
This week I’m praying for the ability to listen well and put aside myself. To be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. If you want to join me, ask God to help you slow down and make time to listen. After all, our ability to listen reveals who we think is most important.