Hope Reflected | Listening
Recently in our devotional time, Wes and I have both been challenged by the concept of being still and learning to listen. Often when we pray, for example, we get so caught up in talking, expressing our feelings, our wishes, our worries, and our desires that we neglect to take the time to actually listen to God. This can translate into our human relationships as well. So often, we get caught up sharing an anecdote with a friend, trying to get our opinion across, or even talking about other people that we neglect – or sometimes even ignore – the opportunity to listen to what others have to say.
Let’s face it: Some people are more inclined to be constantly talking, or blaring the music a little louder, or turning up the volume on the TV. Silence has a way of making people feel uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t want to listen to our own thoughts.
This makes me wonder why we as humans are often afraid to listen. We’re quick to interrupt others because we want to feel important by inputting our opinions. We’re fast to follow up and reply during conversation because we have a longing to be heard.
While we all want to be heard, we should also consider the blessings that come when we choose to listen.
Listening increases our productivity. “Whoever listens…will dwell secure and will be at ease.” (Proverbs 1:33) You know how you’re supposed to read the instructions the whole way through before you start putting the pieces together? Listening is much like reading the instructions – you need to take the time if you want to do things right. Listen to the whole story before getting to work. Listen to what the other person is saying before you formulate your reply. When you take the time to listen before making a decision, or before starting a project, or before responding in conversation, you will quickly realize that listening can save you a lot of time and help you become a more productive person.
Listening helps us learn. “Incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding.” (Proverbs 2:2) It’s been said of old that when we speak we’re only repeating things we already know, and it’s not until we stop and listen that we actually learn. Listening is the difference between being informed and being opinionated. Before you can understand, you must listen, and that is what will help you learn.
Listening encourages others. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) Not only does listening help us learn, listening helps us pay more attention to others. Listening puts the focus on being interested rather than being interesting. Rather than expressing our own opinions and getting our point across, listening demonstrates that we are interested in others and in hearing what they have to say. You know sometimes you just want to vent after you’ve come through a trying situation or a hard day? Whether I’m talking to God, or to Wes, or having a heated conversation with myself in the shower, there’s something so relieving about letting it all out on a listening ear (without someone trying to solve all your problems). It’s often said that the greatest gift you can give to another is your attention. Listening provides encouragement.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the word “listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent”. The next time you’re feeling uncomfortable or awkward because of silence, use the opportunity to listen. There are great blessings when you learn the skill of listening!