Listening to the Bible reveals unexpected insights.
For instance, how often have you heard a talk on how listening can help you grow?
And how often do leaders of online communities encourage less posting and more reflection?
Actually, I’d be a little wary of a spiritual leader who said I needed to listen to grow. I’d be suspicious they were trying to silence me so they could speak - and have control. It’s a caution worth keeping in mind.
Another caution: listening doesn’t mean we lose our voice. Healthy communication involves balancing listening and sharing. It would be weird to talk to someone who only listened and never talked - or always talked and never listened!
At the same time, in healthy relationships with trustworthy people, listening is an essential skill. Without listening to a friend, we can only guess what they need to hear from us.
Please consider James 1:19-21 with me:
My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
As George Guthrie explains in his commentary,
The triple exhortation “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” is proverbial in nature. The virtue of being a ready listener who knows how to control the tongue, and the corresponding moral danger of being a hothead, hasty talker, are widespread in both Hellenistic and Jewish literature.
A wise person understands the value of listening.
It’s an essential component for a heart that is at peace with God and others, growing in purity, and experiencing the grace of God.
Why? In part, listening involves putting someone else before ourselves. We pay attention to their perspective, heart, words, and concerns. As we do so, we develop patience, restraint, and curiosity.
So how? How can we be “quick to listen”?
Give your full attention to the other person.
Listen to hear not just their words but their heart.
Become comfortable with pauses in the conversation so others can find their footing.
Ask follow-up questions from a place of genuine curiosity.
Before sharing our perspective, see if you’ve understood theirs. “Here’s what I heard you say. Does that sound right to you?”
Look for the good in what they’ve shared.
Don’t rush to respond with your perspective.
Now, James is writing wisdom literature. I would look like a fool if I followed these suggestions in every conversation! For instance, when a friend asks me to lunch, they usually want a simple yes or no! They don’t need me to dig deeply into their emotions at that moment. Wisdom requires us to discern the situation. Otherwise, in our attempts to be virtuous, we will fail to be good friends.
Reflection / Discussion Questions
- When do you find it most difficult to listen well? What makes it challenging?
- What helps you listen well?
- Share about a time when you felt genuinely listened to. How did it impact you?
- What’s one tip from the post you’d like to put into practice? How could it improve your relationships?