As one who is trained in the art of listening . . . and who makes his living as a counselor by it, it pains me to see how much listening actually goes on, . . . or not. Mostly not.
All around me (and I don’t believe I’m imagining things) it appears that people are just shouting at each other, trying their best to either ensure they are heard, or more likely, to drown out the shouts of those with opposing viewpoints. It’s evident in the families with whom I counsel, it was present in the churches I’ve served through the years, and it’s become epidemic in cities and towns across our country.
Many years ago, the psychologist M. Scott Peck offered, “True listening, . . . is always a manifestation of love.” Several decades ago, Dietrich Bonhoffer wrote, “Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because Christians are talking when they should be listening. He who no longer listens to his brother (or sister) will soon no longer be listening to God either.”
It’s been my conviction, that as family members, church members, and even citizens of the same nation, we have much more in common than what seems to separate us. We just don’t take the time and effort to discover those things. We are too busy, I suppose, trying to talk when we could be listening.
The prophet Isaiah, in ancient Israel, received a word from God and spoke that word to his hearers. “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 1:18) These words, profound in the 8th century B.C., seem just as applicable in our 21st century world.
While I realize I can do little to sway this influence on the national scale, I can effect the circles in which I run. Here are some thoughts about how I can contribute:
- Make listening primary, and speaking secondary – “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)
- Before you speak, consider your own prejudices, misgivings, and short-comings – “. . . first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)
- Be gracious to others when you speak – “Let your speech always be with grace . . .” (Colossians 4:6)
- Use a quieter and softer tone of voice – “A soft answer turns away wrath; but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Please join me by practicing these in your daily encounters.
© 2017 Roger Daniels