“Mom. Mom. Mom!”
“What?” I responded.
“Were you even listening to me?” my son asked.
He touched my arm and I looked up from my phone.
No. I wasn’t listening.
We all know what it is like to speak to someone and then realize they haven’t heard a word we said. We can tell by their body language that they are thinking about something else or simply don’t even care to listen. We also know what it is like to share our thoughts with someone only to have them interrupt us so they can speak their own mind.
James tells us, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Proverbs 29:20 says, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Jesus quoted Isaiah when he spoke of those who could not hear what he came to proclaim, “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:15).
Listening doesn’t come naturally to any of us. In our sin nature, we want others to hear what we have to say but care less about what others say. We want to win every argument and have the last word. We’d rather spend time thinking of our response than truly trying to understand what the other person is saying.
On our own, we would be helpless. We would never be quick listeners. But Jesus did not leave us alone and we are not without hope. He has graced believers with his Spirit who implants and applies God’s Word to our hearts. After James tells us to be slow to speak and quick to listen, he goes on to say that God’s word is “able to save your souls.” “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with weakness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
This shows us that God provides for what he requires. By his grace and through Christ’s work on our behalf, he has opened our deaf ears to hear his word. He has made us new creations and new listeners. We now have ears to hear. Through the all transforming work of the gospel implanted in our hearts, he is conforming us more and more into people who are quick listeners.
More on being quick to listen:
1. Pray: Let us pray to be quick listeners. Let us pray that the Spirit would help us realize when we are not listening. Let us also pray that we would desire to be people who listen.
2. Listen to God’s word: Good listening starts with listening to God’s word. God’s word is the source of all truth. It is active and alive and changes us from the inside out (Hebrews 4:12). As we read his word, we can expect the Spirit to convict us, prompt us, remind us, encourage us, and point us in the way of obedience.
3. Humility: Listening grows out of a heart that is humble. To listen to another person means that we care more about the person speaking than we do about what we have to say. Colossians 3:12 reminds us that because we are dearly loved of God, we are to clothe ourselves in humility.
4. Listen with your whole self: A listener engages their whole self in the act of listening: We need to look at the person speaking. We show them we care by our body language: turning toward the speaker and nodding our head to show we hear. We also need to focus on what they are saying and not on what we are going to say in response.
5. Show that you have heard: A listener shows that they have heard and asks for clarification. I often ask my kids to repeat back to me an instruction I’ve given to make sure that they have truly heard me. One of the ways we can show another person that we’ve heard them is to summarize for them what we’ve heard them say. “I heard you say ______. Is that correct?” Asking questions to clarify understanding also shows that you desire to understand what they have said to you. “So do you mean ____?” “I’m not sure I fully understand. Did you say _____?”
How about you? Do you struggle to listen?