When I was in school and I got my report cards, there was a common thread in the comment section throughout the years. The observation from my teachers was, “excessive talking in class.” In grade school, this did not matter as much because my grades weren’t suffering. However, as I got older, the talking made it harder for me to hear what was being taught and my grades were sliding. It is difficult to hear when we can’t stop talking.
James reminds us that everyone should be quick to hear and slow to speak. (James 1:19) I’ve heard countless pastors and teachers remind students that they have “two ears and one mouth.” Echoing the idea presented in James. What a concept though!
When you really evaluate yourself, are you the type of person that actually listens or are you just waiting for your turn to speak? I’ve seen this in my youngest daughter. I will be giving her correction or instruction and I can tell that she is not paying attention. She may be looking at you, but no processing is taking place, yet as soon as you are done speaking (or maybe even before that) she is giving her response. As we enter the election season again, I am reminded of her as I watch the debates. I cringe watching these people talk at each other and over each other in hopes of getting a soundbite that goes viral—no one is listening!
It is important for us to be quick to listen. Listening is the only way we can really move past our preconceived notions and understand someone else’s position or ideas. And it takes effort (sometimes a lot!) to pump the brakes on our own desires to be heard.
I read in a recent article, “In our social media age, where someone stands on an issue is rarely seen in the context of why they believe what they believe. The dynamic has led to families, communities, and churches polarized by division…many of us see the world only through our own perspectives, relegating ourselves to societal echo chambers that only reinforce our views while essentially dismissing seeing things another way.”
We can get so much more from listening to people with differing opinions than our own. I know I learn so much more that way. Jesus never shouted down an idealistic opponent. He listened and responded in a way that his opponent could hear and understand. My daughter can respond without really listening, but she comes by it honestly. I can find myself ready to talk before I’ve taken the time to listen and process.
How about you? Are you listening?