Listening speaks louder

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19 ESV).

“Lend me your ears” (Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar).

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give another is the gift of listening. It sounds paradoxical, but listening can actually speak louder than words.

In a world where everyone is busy expressing their opinion on social media and tweeting about their status, do you ever wonder if anyone is really listening? We greet one another with “How are you?” but really don’t want to know. It’s just a pleasantry. We don’t have time to hear. Listening is a luxury we feel we can’t afford.

Yet many are starving for understanding, yearning for someone to really listen to their voice. Who will give the gift of listening to them?

There have been many through the years who have given me the gift of listening. And that’s really important to a “talker” like me. Certainly the one, other than Jesus, that has been my most ardent listener has been my wife, Robin. As long as I don’t start the conversation too late at night (she’s an early to bed, early to rise type), she will listen attentively as long as I talk. She’s my biggest fan. Always encouraging me when I express self-doubt. Believing in me when I describe my dreams. Her listening speaks louder of her love for me than words ever could.

That’s because listening is sacrificial. We have to humble ourselves and be silent to truly hear another. This self-imposed silence is not only to our speaking voice, but also to our inner one as well, not thinking of what we’re going to say next, but truly focusing on the other. Listening is a gift of love.

When was the last time you gave the gift of listening to someone that everyone else tends to shun? When did you last bend down to a child’s level and truly hear their little voice?

I’m glad that I have a wife that listens to me. Even more than that, I’m glad that we have a God that listens. As the psalmist said, “But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:19 ESV).

If we really seek to communicate with God and with others, we must learn to be “quick to listen.” The paradoxical biblical principle of listening in order to speak is counter to the world’s wisdom. Yet, when practiced it brings about the harmony of understanding.

 

 

(This article was adapted from a previous entry entitled, “Generous Ears,” February 2016.)

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