The apostle James writes:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19).
Now, you won’t see that Scripture on a sign at a ball game like you would John 3:16; And it doesn’t fit nicely into a melody of a song, such as “Trust In The Lord With All Your Heart” (Proverbs 3:5), “Mighty To Save” (Isaiah 63:1) or “How Great Is Our God?” (2 Chronicles 2:5). But in so many ways it is a verse that needs to not only be memorized (or sung) but lived out. It is perhaps the most practical advice we need to hear (no pun intended) in today’s world.
My old pastor use to say that there was a good reason that God gave us two ears and only one mouth. But it seems that we don’t make good use of this biological design. Instead, I find people do way too much talking and not nearly enough listening. We hear something that we don’t like or agree with and we are ready to answer back, ready to defend or argue our point of view. We hear something or feel something and all of a sudden we are preparing ourselves to fight back. It happens in all walks of life…politics, work, marriage, family, church, etc. How many couples complain that their spouse does not listen to them? How many children don’t sense that their parents really listen to what they are saying? Has anyone felt ignored or minimized by their boss or co-worker? We may “hear “what somebody says but we often don’t “listen” to what they say…or why they say it.
What does James say is the result of reversing the order of listening first then speaking? It leads to anger and where anger leads could range from hurt feelings to outright aggression. We have seen the ugly side of this recently on college campuses where student’s are not only shouting down the politically conservative speaker but resorting to aggression and violence. What ever happened to listening to another person’s view point? Are we afraid that we might agree with them, or we might change our opinion or appear to be on their side? It use to be considered respectful to listen to someone else; now it is considered a sign of weakness or we are afraid we might appear to be condoning an issue that we don’t want to be affiliated with. We have forgotten the beauty of agreeing to disagree while stepping into somebody else’s world and trying to understand their perspective.
Author David Ausburger wrote: “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” Let that sink in for a minute. To convey love to somebody take the time to listen to them. This requires (if possible) eye contact, full attention, a closed mouth and a desire to understand. It is much, much more difficult and much more time consuming to enter into someone’s else’s world and open our hearts and ears to them then it is to lash out at them or try to change them, their opinion or their viewpoint. There is an art to effective listening and I believe it really starts with valuing the other person as made in the image of God. To say “I am not a good listener” or worse, “I don’t want to listen” is not a worthy excuse; it is a character defect that we need to have changed by the Holy Spirit. Don’t begin with an : “Us against them” or “Me against you” or “My way vs. your way” attitude. Instead begin with an “I care about you; help me to understand why you think/feel the way that you do” approach and I believe it will lead to a lot less anger and a whole lot more love. And it may even change someone else’s opinions or behavior. As the old saying goes: “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.” And listening is a powerful form of caring.
Two ears. One mouth…A truly great design.
What do you think? How does it make you feel?