Truly listening can transform a relationship, and a person’s life can be drastically improved when they feel heard. Being truly heard and validated – to know it’s okay to feel what you feel – instead of dismissed and/or judged often results in a new lease on life. This is true in each of our earthly relationships as well as in our individual relationships with God. Honestly answering, “Are you listening?” is potentially the first step toward a whole new depth within all your relationships.
As you answer this question, especially if you take the time to assess your listening in each of your relationships, one realization you’ll likely come to is the need to “Talk Less. Listen More.” We all, at least to some extent, need to better develop our listening skills. We all struggle hearing what others are saying. We struggle with going beyond hearing words by asking questions, giving our full attention, and following up. Listening more and talking less are simple yet difficult but potentially transformational.
The challenge I sometimes have with being a good listener is often feeling like I’m not listened to – not heard – enough. Even expressing the need to be heard more feels selfish. Yet, I can’t escape Scripture’s many directives to seek counsel.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)
To receive counsel requires being heard but also listening and receiving. In this process, we become stronger as individuals, and we see the reality that we truly are stronger together in action.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Yet, I struggle finding that strength in relationships when listening and being heard become greatly diminished or even absent. When this breakdown in communication occurs, it’s important to assess why the relationship is struggling and look for ways to fix it as quickly as possible.
Make the Effort
The Bible provides a lot of direction for improving our relationships. Two verses almost always come to mind when any of my relationships are struggling, though.
“If at all possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)
These verses remind me that while I can’t control if I’m heard, I can control how well I listen. That’s one part of my role in living at peace with others. Another part is not focusing so much on my not feeling heard that I neglect to listen. These and all the other elements of healthy relationships take effort. If we’re not willing to make the effort to listen and truly hear others, we’ll find only frustration and eventually total breakdown of the relationship. Instead, let us make peace and encouragement our goals.