By Jennifer Miller
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you find yourself tuning the other person out? You may have other things on your mind that needs your full attention or maybe you just don’t want to hear the ‘same ole same ole’ story again. Or have you ever found yourself appearing to listen to the other person, but you are eager to show off your expertise in the matter by making short pithy comments? Maybe you just love to debate any and all issues that arise, so you feel compelled to spend your time coming up with rapid fire responses to defend your position. Whatever the reason for the distraction, we are all guilty at some point of not fully listening to what someone else is saying.
It is always best to examine your thoughts and the situation first to gain a better perspective. We need to identify the problem before we can address it. Everyone wants to state their opinion and act as if their position is either the right one or the best one regarding the subject at hand, but not every opinion should be heard. We need to think and then speak or else this problem will quickly start to unravel and get out of hand.
It isn’t easy to admit it when we are wrong or when we get off track. In fact, it is very easy for us to do so. We get distracted, allow our emotions to make decisions for us, and sometimes assume that we know more or better than the average person. It is here that we must step back and examine our motives and our feelings on the issue at hand – particularly those hot button issues.
As a Christian this is a problem area. We tend to shout our responses enthusiastically or emphatically, interject them without ever fully hearing where the other party is coming from, and it is no wonder that we often rush into judgment or draw the wrong conclusions, not to mention risk to intentionally offend the opposing side. The truth must be told, but it is how we deliver it that determines how it is received. Our main objective must be to act out of love as 1 Peter 4:8 states.
“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves, for charity shall cover a multitude of sins.”
Again, I restate, that this is not an easy task. It needs to be taken seriously and cultivated constantly. Sometimes we need to show those we either disagree with or dislike, the respect that we expect for ourselves, and love them regardless of where they stand. Love is an action that we must strive to choose each time if we want to follow this command. Let’s look at Luke 11:28 and James 1:22 and see that if we want to be more like Jesus, we need to apply His principles and follow them; otherwise everything falls apart and no one gets anywhere, or nothing gets resolved.
“But he said, yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.”
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
How can we as Christians stand on our faith if we fail to follow when we are called or fail to do whatever He asks of us? When we love others the way Jesus instructed us it does cover a multitude of sins. Please do not misunderstand this does not mean that we are condoning or approving sin, for we all sin and will continue to do so until we meet with Him. It means to show compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to each other when we act out of love. When we are quick to judge or willing to think the worse of someone, we are not loving our fellow sisters and brothers as we are commanded to do.
What we need to focus on is how to fine tune our communication skills. Communication is a necessity if one wants to strive to exist in a society that meets the needs of everyone and allows all a voice to express themselves. It must remain an open channel to do this, so it is very important that it flows easily; otherwise wires get crossed and the message appears unclear. One just needs to shift his or her focus off speaking and zero in on listening to the other party instead. Let us “hear” what the other party wants to convey or express and then afterwards we can begin to step forward towards a vocal response.
We just saw the first step – operating out of love as being the most important step we must utilize to keep the lines of communication healthy and thriving. Now we need to understand there is a time to speak and a time to listen. These also are action words, and both are vital. When we misuse these two words, we can sometimes cause irreparable damage. Let’s look to see what The Bible recommends for us to do.
First, we need to heed instruction and gain wisdom. Applying wisdom my friend allows everyone the room to think before they act as we see in the following verses of Proverbs: 16:20, 1:5, 25:12 and 19:27.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
“He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good; and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.”
“A wise man will hear and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain wise counsels.”
“As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.”
“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.”
Once we understand wisdom, we can see why the next step is to wait before we speak or respond to someone else. James 1:19 warns us to hold our tongue, and it is suggested that we utilize temperance (another vital key) before we speak. One is to watch what you say, and the other is be careful how you respond to the situation at hand. Job’s so-called friends rushed to judgment and did not listen to what Job was saying. They pointed their fingers at him accusingly and failed to listen to his pain. Proverbs 18:13 and 18:2 warns us of the foolishness of speaking too soon.
“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”
“A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.”
Remember this is the other person’s story to tell, not ours. How can we help if we can’t show them the proper respect and listen to what their story is?
Our final step is to find the most viable solution or way to resolve an issue before it can get out of hand. As Ambassadors for Christ, we are the hands and feet of the church and we need to utilize the appropriate tools to be the most effective to the cause. Titus 3:2 tells to watch how we respond. We are to be gentle and not hit someone over the head. 1 Peter 3:8-12 stresses that we need to show compassion and respect to all.
“To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.”
“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous. Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.”
Take a moment and think this out. When you really need to be heard do you want someone to criticize or do you want someone to hear you and then gently guide you towards the right path? Do you want to lead others to Christ, or do you want to put a roadblock up for the other party to veer off from the path and go their own way? When we fail to listen and choose to just correct, we fail to tell the whole story of how Jesus can take a broken man and make him whole. We make it seem that no one can come to Him unless they are fixed and that just is not true. Lead them but allow them the opportunity to hear the whole truth and decide how they want to proceed. We cannot save anyone for we do not have that power, but My Lord has the power to do so and that is who we must point them towards.
One day, a mighty glorious day, we will see how many seeds we planted sprung forth good fruit in the name of Jesus. Until then continue to plant, cultivate and be the hands and feet He asks of us. We were once lost as well and someone else took the time to tell us about our Lord. And as Matthew 11:15 says:
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”