Alan Smith tells a funny story about President Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said.
One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who came down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.”
It was not until the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Not quite knowing what to say, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”
Our word of the week is “Listen.” The Bible has a great deal to say about listening.
The book of Proverbs personified wisdom as a woman calling us to pay attention and hear her words of advice. “And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.” (Prov. 5:7, ESV)
The wise man also calls upon young people to heed the counsel of their parents. “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” (Prov. 13:1).
Constantly in the Old Testament, Jehovah calls upon His people to hear His words of warning, instruction, and exhortation. “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel,” God pleads through the prophet Isaiah. (46:3)
Today, God wants us to hear the voice of Jesus. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” ( Matt. 17:5)
Jesus often preceded His parables or sermons with the exhortation, “Listen to Me” (Mk 7:14).
Listening will also improve our relationships with others. Listening will decrease the possibility of misunderstanding, quell anger, and provide understanding into others’ insights.
The Bible says, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (Jas 1:19, NIV)
Unfortunately, the divine entreaty is pretty much the opposite of my nature! Too often I am quick to speak and slow to listen. And when that happens the potential is greatly increased for anger to ensue.
Here are 5 suggestions that will improve our listening skills and enhance our relationships with family, friends and brethren.
(1) Show respect. The other person is made in God’s image. They have worth. Dignity. And value. If I apply Jesus’ golden rule (Matt 7:12) I will accord to others the kind of consideration that I desire. In fact, I will esteem others better than myself (Phil 2:3-4).
(2) Listen to everyone. It’s very easy to tune out others when we think they have little to offer. Or maybe we are preoccupied with concerns we deem more important. Men listen to your wives. Parents listen to your children. Preachers listen to the people you’re serving.
(3) Be quiet. The wise man exhorted, Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few” (Eccl 5:2). Jesus is a great example of this during his trial. He was so quiet that Pilate marveled. There are times to be a person of a few words. Or no words.
(4) Understand emotions. God made us with emotions. We all have them. However, anger, fear or annoyance can cloud our judgement, inhibit listening and effectively shut-down communication.
(5) Ask questions. Jesus was the master of asking questions. It gives insight into the other person. Deflects arguments. Aids others to see new facts. Questions show interest in others. And will improve your conversation.
David Hockney was right, “Listening is a positive act; you have to put yourself out to do it. And don’t forget the age-old adage, “”There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak!”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman