Are you listening?

Listening As a Tool

In my continual study of communication skills, listening continues to reign as an essential one. Experts explain that how – with awareness, time, and practice – anyone can become a better listener. In fact, listening is a tool God has given us to change lives and deepen relationships.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ears to listen like one being taught.” (Isaiah 50:4)

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

Listening As a Bridge

This holds true not just in our relationships with others but in our relationship with God too. Consider how Dietrich Bonhoeffer actually bridges our ability to listen to others with our ability to listen to God.

“He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too… Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.” (The Ministry of Listening)

When we fail to listen to others, we’re likely failing to listen to God too. And, the less we listen to God, the more struggles we’ll have with our faith.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

Learning to listen to others directly impacts our ability to listen to God. The sustained attention required for listening is not something that is compartmentalized; it flows into every area of our lives because it becomes a part of who we are. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13)

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2)

Reflect On Your Listening

Is listening your first response? Do you seek to understand others?

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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