Sunday Reflections: Are You Listening?

NOTE: I am making a slight format change with Struggle to Victory. “How to…” posts will now be on Mondays, and “Sunday Reflections” will now be on Wednesdays. This change will allow more time for me to reflect on Sundays and to even attempt some application before writing the post. I believe this will make the posts – and me – better.

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When I was about 13, I remember distinctly telling my mom when she tried to give me advice, “Let me make my own mistakes.” She wanted to prevent me making some of the mistakes she made, and I failed to listen. This regret represents a time in my life when I was not teachable. Fortunately, I have since become more open to learning from the mistakes of others.

While I still am not a great listener and am continually working on my listening skills, I have improved since those foolish teenage years. Because listening has never come easily for me, I feel compelled to ask myself, “Why is listening such a struggle?”

In answering this question, I discovered that I do not stand alone in this struggle. Here are some reasons why listening might be a struggle:

  1. You think you already know what you need to know.
  2. You have too much going on in your head already and can’t take in more information.
  3. You’re judging what a person is saying.
  4. You’ve already come up with a solution for the person talking
  5. You’re relating everything to yourself.
  6. You’re impatient.
  7. You’re afraid of the silence that might happen if you wait to formulate a response.
  8. You’ve got a “one-up” story you just have to tell.
  9. You want to impress others, maybe improve how intelligent you are.
  10. You have to be right, and why listen since the person talking is already wrong.
  11. You’re uncomfortable with what others are saying.
  12. You’re tired or hungry or both and just can’t focus.

Some of these reasons for not listening may hit home with you, while some may not apply at all. For me, I am ashamed to admit that all of them have been a struggle at some point. Getting outside of what’s going on in our lives and truly focusing on others is a struggle that I think most people, perhaps everyone, has.

Over the years, I have become a better listener, though still not a great one. I’ve come to realize that every person’s words have value. Christ gives tremendous value to every person, and listening is one way I can embrace that value (Psalm 139:13-16).

I’ve also learned that even if someone is talking a lot about nothing, they may be expressing unfulfilled needs for love and acceptance. At least, that’s often what’s going on with me when I’m talking.

As a result of this tough look at my own listening skills, the following are the approaches I am taking to become a better listener.

  1. Do what I can to free my mind to listen to others.
  2. Listen better at home with my family.
  3. Understand why listening is important.
  4. Listen for what I can learn from others.
  5. Avoid being tired, hungry and stressed when I need to listen.

Listening seems counter-cultural in a society that touts instant gratification, speaking up for yourself, and standing up for your needs, wants and desires. Yet, I am realizing more and more that Jesus’ life exemplifies living counter-culturally, that the way of the Father is often not the way of culture. That I must choose the narrow way (Matthew 7:13).

Perhaps if we learn How to… Cultivate Creativity we can constructively express our emotions leaving room mentally to truly listen. Perhaps if we truly understand that No Man is An Island, we can better practice the tenants of scripture that exhort the importance of truly hearing what others are saying. In other words, as we find ways to learn and grow as individuals, the body as a whole becomes stronger.

As we move from just knowing that listening is important to God to living His instructions out for listening (James 1:19) in our attitudes, actions and words, we further develop the deep roots and cohesiveness that Christ prayed for His body to have (John 17:20-26).

DISCUSSION: What struggles have you personally experienced with listening?

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12 thoughts on “Sunday Reflections: Are You Listening?

  1. I work hard at listening. At some point along the way I realizeded how much more I learned than others because I was simply doing a better job listening than they and that made me want to be better at it.

    I value listening highly. Paul Tillich said “The first duty of love is to listen”. Listening shows great respect and it shows interest in the person. People like that a person listens to them and shows interest in them regardless what is being discussed. Sometimes that does not matter as much as the act of showing the respect for whomever you are in conversation with.

    A pitfall is when you are listening “with the intent to reply” rather that “with the intent to understand”. In the first case you are working on your reply even as they talk. People recognize if you are fully engaged with them or not. Your reply sometimes tells them you are not. Like you indicate, another pitfall I have is I judge what a person is saying based on my opinion of the person making the comment. I lose out on the opportunity to learn something good if I discount what someone is saying because I do not like them.

    I so believe we show love by working hard at listening and we should especially do that with our family. Sometimes a person just wants you to understand what they are saying. They are not seeking a solution from you or even a comment. Be careful not to give either if it is not wanted.

    Being a good listener can be a powerful relationship builder.

    • Terrific addition to add depth to why listening is so important. While all of what you said was good to hear, what really stood out to me is the idea of working hard to become a good listener. It is a skill we can learn and improve. Also, the idea of showing love by listening is huge. You're right in that being a good listener is a huge relationship builder, and I would take it a step further and say it's an essential part of building solid relationships.

  2. WOW! this is such a difficult area for me too. Thanks for the insight. I really like the thought about listening as a way to show love. I tend to interrupt my husband and so discourage his sharing. Thinking I already know what he is going to share and have an answer for him. I need to ask God to help me become a better listener…to him and HIM!

    • Once I made a commitment to truly change in this area, the Holy Spirit has been right beside me encouraging and reminding me to be a better listener. This is happening with my kids and my spouse, and I'm looking forward to it happening more in other relationships. Amazing how He does that once we truly realize we need to change and then fully submit to Him in that process.

    • I have realized that I have hurt people by not being a good listener. It is usually pretty obvious when I have been caught not doing this well and I should be caught if I am not doing it well because I do want to love people by giving them undivided attention. I don't wont to be like the 5 second Klondike husband. 🙂

      Undivided anything takes work.

  3. I'd like to think I'm a pretty good listener, but perhaps I'm overestimating my own competence there. I know the toughest part for me has been not only listening to the words people are saying, but what's going on in the background of their hearts and minds.

  4. I usually really enjoy people so I don't have a hard time listening – unless they talk non-stop (because then I get bored) or unless I have something else on my mind – some problem that I haven't worked through. So my best defense against being a poor listener is to work through all my problems with God as soon as they come up. That way I'm living in peace and it's easier to focus on others and be a good listener!

    • Your "best defense" is a perfect example of what I meant by "Do what I can to free my mind to listen to others." The more often we take things to Jesus and work through them with Him, the more present we can be for our relationships with others. Great example!

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