Have you ever stuck your fingers in your ears when a person was saying something you did not want to hear? It is usually accompanied by lalalalalalalalalalala! Their opinion and voice just grate on your sensitive hearing and you just cannot take it! My answer is simple … just tune out anyone and everyone who has a different opinion, view, or answer to a problem. I am tired of all the ignorance (code for people who do not get it), so let’s just not listen anymore to all the dissenting voices that do not know anything anyway! Are you with me?
Okay not really. But I bet you were tempted to say, “Yah! That is right! I am not listening anymore to those …!” The truth is … that happens all the time. I hear something that I do not agree with … and I stop listening. Do not get me wrong; I hear you … I am just not listening anymore. In my head are the thoughts about what you just said and why I disagree with you, why it is wrong and why you do not know what you are talking about and … well, you get the point. I cannot listen to you when I am listening to me and all the thoughts in my head!
When I stop listening, I usually find myself impatiently waiting to speak … rather than listening to gain wisdom, understanding or insight from another person’s life, opinions, and experiences. When I stop listening … well, I start wanting my turn to talk and when I start talking, I am often moving toward persuasion, conflict, disagreement, and anger. For me, I have come to understand that listening is about humility and recognizing that I do not know everything. (I know that shocks you). And, when I am not listening to you, I am probably not listening to God either and just maybe, there is something that the Holy Spirit is wanting to say in what is being said.
Scripture teaches us about listening, about seeking understanding and even about avoiding quarreling. But for many of us, even as we read this, we want to justify our right to argue, debate, persuade, defend … which is certainly what we can do … but listen to these words!
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19
Quick to hear, some translations say, quick to listen. This next verse nails me every time because I love to give my opinion when I have not taken the time to listen and fully understand.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2
Ouch! That is a great verse if you find yourself talking over people, inserting your opinion, or just constantly thinking that you are right and everyone else is wrong.
Lastly, this one has caused me to stop in my tracks on many occasions to choose a different response, a more thoughtful and kinder word. Paul is writing to Titus with instructions for the church to be ready for every good work. Paul writes …
… speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people … This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Titus 3:2;8-9
We are all different. We are all standing in a unique place. We all see and experience the world around us differently. What if this week was the week that you and I just listened? Maybe even asked two or three questions to gain deeper understanding. And when we find ourselves listening to our own voice in the midst of a conversation, just stop, recognize that voice and then turn our thoughts to what the other person is saying.
Listening is not easy, but it is worth it. Because after all … Jesus listens to us!