What Listening Means
The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent
The earliest verse I can find in the Bible that references listening is Genesis 16:11, where the angel of the Lord tells Hagar that the Lord “has heard” her affliction. In the book of Psalms, David wrote several times about how the Lord listens and opens His ears to hear His people. In the New Testament James, John, and Paul all encourage their readers about the importance of hearing, taking heed, and listening. Whether we say them audibly or not, the Lord hears all of our thoughts and words. What else does the Bible say about listening? What are the qualities of a great listener?
Listening is an act of humility
One of the verses that I frequently pray for myself and Wes is James 1:19, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:”. Being swift to hear means to be quick to listen, and it’s something with which I struggle. Quite often, when we’re engaged in conversation, we spend more time thinking about the next thing that we’re going to say rather than actually listening to what the other person is saying. One of the qualities of a great listener is that they genuinely care about others and want to hear what others have to say. In that sense, listening is an act of humility.
Listening means that we’re “slow to speak”
A great listener understands that listening requires us to be as James 1:19 says, “slow to speak.” Great listeners not only care about what others have to say, they purposefully slow down to hear them. Great listeners are respectful of what others have to say, they don’t interrupt, and they sincerely want to understand what the other person is saying. Proverbs 18:2 says, “a fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.” While we long to express our opinions, we have to be careful that we’re doing so respectfully. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” We play ourselves as fools when we make assumptions without first hearing the whole story, and we create awkwardness when we interrupt others before they’re finished speaking their thoughts.
Listening is peacemaking over provocation
Another quality of a great listener is being slow to wrath, or slow to anger. When you’re tempted to react in haste to something someone else has said or done, remember that it’s best to first take a deep breath, go for a walk, get some fresh air, or if time allows, sleep on it. Proverbs 21:23 says, “whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from trouble.” The great listeners among us are interested in peacemaking rather than provocation.
Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” It’s no coincidence that the word listen contains the same letters as the word silent (also known as an anagram). We would all do well to keep that in mind the next time someone starts to speak to us.
Learn more about the blessings of listening here.