Are You Listening?

Proverbs 18:13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”

We have all had experience in this type of conversation.

You are just about to finish your sentence, and the other person begins speaking. It is frustrating, but it begs the question, “Did they hear all that I had to say? Were they just waiting for their opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings?”

Whether it is with a business associate, an employer, friend, spouse, or child, we forsake the art of listening to be heard. Steven Covey, an educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker, wrote the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Habit number five states, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Today, many are frustrated with having to listen. It takes energy, focus, selflessness, and humility. Listening is not something that comes naturally. We must force ourselves to listen on purpose.

Often, to listen to someone we love, honor, and respect is easy. When that person is less than favorable in our eyes, it becomes more difficult. To listen to an enemy means bypassing our defense mechanisms, allowing them to be heard.

We are being conditioned by technology to expect an instant response. You can type a question into your favorite search engine and receive numerous responses from as many sources. Human interaction is not that simple.

To read a text message or an email is difficult to get an accurate determination. We cannot hear the inflections in their voice or the expressions on their face. We may use an emoji, but they cannot bring someone closer to that understanding that an in-person exchange can afford.

To listen is first to capture the point of what is spoken. It is also choosing the right course of action once we determine what is said. I can acknowledge a command given, but my comprehension of what I heard is displayed only when my actions reflect what I’ve heard.

Love is a key element to proper listening.

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

Love is an action word, expressed in many ways. There familial love, or love of family. There is phileo or brotherly love. There is agape or unconditional love. Then, there is charity. Charity is love expressed from a commitment we feel toward the object of our desire.

Charity is not a chore or a duty. It is not a religious activity performed out of requirement. The 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians speaks so eloquently of this type of love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

To listen in love is to be engaged with the one speaking. 

To listen in love is to withhold preconceived notions based on first impressions, characterizations, and stereotypes.

To listen in love is to place ourselves in the position of the other to gain a perspective not yet seen, feel what they are feeling, and seek the necessary understanding. 

We must not hastily jump on or into a conversation. We may do more harm than good. Some give a pat answer to engage minimally and quickly remove themselves from the situation, feeling they have more important things to spend their time and energy.

Parents get too focused on things, and they fail to hear their children’s needs truly. Sometimes, it is not what they say, but in what they don’t say that will matter much. A parent who listens intently will ask questions that will probe to find that issue, situation, or circumstance.

Similarly, in loving relationships, we seek to keep the peace and not rock the boat. If a situation or circumstance is not dealt with, time and silence will only exacerbate the inevitable. Proper listening, understanding, and responding will help deepen the relationship.

When we read the Word of God or hear biblical teaching or preaching, we cannot multitask. We try to utilize our minds to listen and work while never fully comprehending what the other is saying. 

Good listening takes focus and engagement. It pushes all distractions to the side. 

Have you been in a conversation where the one listening is looking around, possibly distracted by a person or thing? It never installs confidence that they are listening or interested in what I am saying when their gaze is elsewhere. 

Many would agree that if Jesus Himself were to stand before us, we would be fully engaged and focused. Yet, every time I open my Bible, He stands before me to teach, preach, instruct, admonish, exhort, and encourage me.

Am I truly listening, or does the notifications on my phone or computer distract me?

Do I skim to get the main thought, or do I read every word so as not to miss any of what God has prepared for me today?

I have learned that even the smallest of words can bring about profound thought. As His child, I want to listen intently to what my Heavenly Father has for me today. He has specially prepared it for what I will face today. 

Many know the vacant stare of someone who looks like they are listening but has checked out of the conversation long ago. It is disrespectful and rude.

Let us all take heed not to allow that to happen in our conversation with God!

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