Listening means to pay attention, to close our mouths and open our ears to hear God and others. It is also the act of applying God's Word into our lives! When we listen, we open our minds and hearts to the Truth of our Lord. We will also hear what godly people are saying to sharpen us and know when there is error. It is the person who listens who exhibits good character and godliness. This moves us into the act of actually applying our Christianity, to being doers of the Word (Prov. 28:13-14; Mark 3:7-8; John 8:47; Rom. 12:15; Col. 3:12; James 1:2-27; 1 John 1:8-9).
Wander, Disregard, Disrespect, and Contempt are the opposites. If we are reluctant to listen, then we are also reluctant to learn and grow. Listening is an extremely important tool necessary for life, faith, and trials. When we do not listen, we will transition to distrust of others and God, be filled with anger and/or pride, and then be unable to learn in life or grow through trials that are essential in the ecology of our faith and maturity development.
There is an old story about a student who comes to the great philosopher, Socrates, to be discipled by him. When this young student came to Socrates, he kept talking and talking and talking, so that Socrates could not get a word in edgewise. Socrates had to put his hand over the student's mouth and say "I am going to have to charge you twice." The student asked "Why?" Socrates said, "In order to make you a great leader, I will have to teach you two disciplines. First, you need to learn how to hold your tongue before you can learn the second discipline. And secondly, you will need to learn how to use your tongue correctly." Greek philosophy put a very high premium on elegant speech, and Socrates was the best of them all. But, he knew very well you could not speak until you could listen.
Listening combines the characters of Attentiveness that recognizes the value of others (Prov. 12:15; Mark 4:21-25; 16:24; Hebrews 2:1), and the character of Communicating that gives to others our respect, courtesy, and total concentration (Proverbs 27:9; 1 Tim. 4:12). Both of these characters, together with listening, are God's call upon us to respond to others. But, Listening goes beyond these as it is a skill that we further develop. It is also the quintessential skill we need in order to be doers of His Word, and to apply His precepts into our lives; it also helps build the lives of others. Is your faith weak? Are you listening to God? The first job of a Christian who wants to grow in his or her faith formation is listening. Effective listening is essential to growing in faith or building a friendship! This must transpire so we can be "doers of the word, not hearers only" (James 1:22). How we choose to listen and lead our life will prove if we belong to God or are living just for ourselves (Luke 8:21).
Why is this so important? Because; each of us has a deep need to be heard, whether we admit it or not. It can be a casual conversation or a deep therapy session; if you feel that the other person is not listening, then you feel they do not care about you. Being listened to is a lot like being loved; so, we must take this matter seriously and grow in this skill. Listening is not just hearing; it is actively participating in a conversation with your full attention, and putting your own response on hold. Listening is something we all can do and are called to do, even if we are deaf. Listening is a natural ability and a skill that can be improved on; all its takes is the will to turn it on and let it work. We can also learn techniques to improve our abilities.
Listening is the quintessence of effective relationships. Combined with love, kindness, and character, listening becomes the synergy to make us a winner in relationships, to be real and effectual, and to be better used by God. Listening people are the girders that connect and strengthen relationships. Relationships, as well as spiritual growth, are built on listening, both to God's Word and to one another. The mature Christian cannot grow in maturity unless he or she listens to God's Word.
Are your relationships becoming stagnant? Then, you need to look for the reason. Are you listening to your friends (the ones who have something good to say)? Until each of us listens, nothing productive will happen. People need to be heard; the one who listens earns the right to be heard and resolve the issue. Make sure others know you are listening by giving eye contact, leaning forward, and being relaxed. Restate to clarify what you heard with as few words as possible, saying, this is what I heard... Be open and say, "I am confused; let me try to restate what I think you said." Or, "You have said so much; let me see if I have heard it all."
Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this character and fruit of Listening from God's most precious Word, by examining the passages below. Now ask yourself:
- How do I exhibit Listening in my daily life?
- What can I do to develop a better willingness for Listening to others?
- What blocks Listening from working and being exhibited in me?
- How can I make Listening function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainly and stress?
· Here are positive examples from Scripture: Jos. 22:5; Prov. 13:3; Mal. 3:16; Matt. 7:24-27; Mark 3:7-8; John 10:3-4; 27, Phil. 2:14-18.
· Here are negative examples from Scripture: Ezek. 12:2; Zech. 7:11-14; Rom. 11:25; John 8:43-47; 10:20; 12:37-38; Acts 13:44-50.
1.How would you define Listening? Are you a person who naturally listens to others? Why, or why not?
2.What part does Listening play in your relationships with church members, friends, co-workers, and family? Have you taken the time to be a person who shows real care by opening your heart and ears to others?
3.How does "wandering" in your mind counteract Listening? What is the cost to others (God, family, friends, neighbors, church family, co-workers, etc.) when you are a person who is focused on only what you have to say?
4.What happens to your relationship with God, with others, and with the opportunities God gives you when you neglect to be doers of the Word?
5.When have you been filled with Listening the most?
6.In what situation did you fail to Listen to someone when you should have?
7.What issue is in your life that would improve with more Listening?
8.Think through the steps you need to take to put Listening into action in a specific instance. Such as, where is Listening not functioning properly in your attitudes with friends, church folks, family, and co-workers? What can you do about it? What causes your mind to wander and what can you do about it? What are you going to do about becoming a better listener now?
"If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success." (Eccl. 10:10)
© 2004, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org