It is hard to be a good listener. It’s not just about working ears or not having too much background noise. Listening well requires great effort and energy. Sometimes it makes us feel uncomfortable or even requires that we change. In listening to others, we may not like what’s being said (or what we’re asked to do). And even more, it is difficult to listen to someone and experience their pain with them.
It is difficult to listen well.
And yet, what a gift it is to the one talking – sharing – pouring out their hearts! To have someone lovingly, actively, selflessly listening.
How can we listen better?
Think of the other person first
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. ~ Philippians 2:3-4
If I am considering the needs of the other person first, then I will find it much easier to listen – but also to love and serve them after I’ve listened.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger ~ James 1:19
We usually have this backwards. We are quick to speak, quick to be angry and painfully slow to hear. If we could slow our breakneck pace of life (and speech – and thought!) down, we might find that we not only listen better – we also speak better.
Listen to the Lord First
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. ~ Proverbs 2:1-5
Whatever the reason we are listening (edification? Teaching? Grieving? Sharing a burden?), if we listen to God first, it will make us better listeners and better Christians. It’s the trickledown effect.
Pray about it
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him ~ James 1:5
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ~ Philippians 4:6
Realize that Listening Can Improve
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. ~ Proverbs 19:20
When will we gain that wisdom? In the future. Yes, I might not be as good a listener today as I’d like to be, but if I listen to the Lord and to those who have allowed Him to shape them, I can gain more and more wisdom. I can get better.
Think of the Lord’s Example
In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. ~ Psalm 18:6
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. ~ Psalm 62:8
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7
Who always has time to listen? Who hears out your prayers – no matter how passionate, illogical, questioning or emotional they may be? God, who holds eternity, who is sovereign across all peoples, all nations, and all of time – if he takes time to listen to each of his children, surely, we too, can find time to listen to each other.
May we all be better listeners – to God and to each other. After all, it’s a way to show our love.