A Time to Listen
I have to admit it: I have a hard time listening. I have to work hard at it. It may be because I am ADHD and have a hard time focusing, or it simply might be because I have what many men have – selective hearing. I saw a T shirt that said “My wife says I don’t listen – or something like that” written on it.
My wife will often repeat important matters to me three times: a few days preceding an event, the night before an event, and the morning of the event. I asked her why she repeated herself so much and she said that she just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything because sometimes I don’t listen. I think that sums up a lot of people. It is easy to do all the talking, but many of us struggle when it comes to listening.
Now as a pastor I know the importance of listening. We all need someone to listen to us at times. People have shared tremendous challenges with me, not for me to solve the issue, but to be a trusting friend, someone to have an ear to voice their hurts or pains with. We all need people like this in our lives.
Friendships are built on listening to one another. I think if were to ask ten people what is the key of a good friendship, I would bet that nine out of ten would say they want a friend they can go to talk to in times of troubles.
Marriages can succeed or fail based on each spouse’s willingness to listen to one another. Nearly every pre-marital counseling book lists communication as one of the top priorities to keep a marriage strong and healthy. And listening is key to good communication.
James 1:19-20 tells us, 19 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
When reading the book of James, we see that it was written to people who were going through trials. It is easy to get angry and not want to listen to someone when we are under pressure. Hard times can bring out the best and worst in an individual.
Right now, during a pandemic, we have to work extra hard to be patient and to listen to others.
It is during trials that we have a tendency to allow the pressure to build. If we are not careful we can release our frustrations on others and look for someone to blame. If we are not careful, in anger we can speak out of turn or post something on social media or say something hurtful to someone we love before we have a chance to hear them out.
Being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger can also save us some embarrassment. Proverbs 18:13 tells us “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” It is easy to jump to the wrong conclusions and accuse someone for some mis-justice when we haven’t taken the time to listen to his or her side of the story. Have you ever had to apologize to someone because you got angry in haste – simply for something you “thought” was a problem, only to discover there was really not problem at all? My hand raised – I have.
And think about some of the events we have seen around us in just the last year. We have experienced the most heated and divisive presidential election I can remember. We have experienced riots. Many people are under heavy financial pressures brought on by COVID. We have had a major winter storm with millions who have been without heat and water for days. Any of these things can drive us to the breaking point. And multiplied one on another, we may just want to go off on someone and vent our frustrations. But in doing so, if we are not careful, we can do more harm than good. We may speak on things before we have a complete understanding of all the facts. We may hastily lay blame on the wrong people. We may alienate people who need to be loved. We may do more harm than good.
Are there circumstances that we should be angry about? Absolutely! Can we speak up in times of injustice? Yes! But if we are wise, we should take James’ advice and be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. It can save us from a lot of embarrassment. It can protect some friendships. It can make our marriages stronger. It could save us from looking foolish. It can even build bridges to those who are different than ourselves.
Pastor, Bryan Eason