Jesus said to them, “Consider how you listen. With the measure that you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.” (Mark 4:24)
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
At the end of a recent conversation someone told me, “Thank you for really listening to me.”
What?! I was just thanked for listening well.
In 48 years of ministry, I think this was the first time. Not the greatest compliment of my ministry. But I got the listening right with at least one person.
My problems with listening began with my learning to speak as a child. I found it more interesting telling others what I thought rather than listening to what they thought.
My mother’s most oft comment to me: “Grant, you never listen.”
This comment has been said to me often in various forms – did you hear me, what did I just say, you interrupted me again, no one can talk to you, and you haven’t heard what I’ve said.
I have justified my non-attentiveness by considering that non-listening is a minor offence – not in the same league as lying, gossiping, or criticizing. It couldn’t be that bad – it was/is.
I have this uncanny ability to know what a person is going to say next, so why do I have to listen to what they have to say next? Why can’t I just interrupt with my comment to their comment and speed the conversation along?
Shut up and listen, Grant! I’ve been telling myself this little motto for the past four years. It’s not about my correct answer or even a funny rejoinder. I need to honor others by listening!
Four years ago, someone said to me, “You are boring to talk with!” What, me? I can talk about Greek words in the New Testament, I’ve been out of the country at least 80 times, I read books, articles and Facebook constantly.
I know things; I can add an interesting comment on most topics!
I enquired further. The person: “Why do I want to talk to someone who stops me mid-sentence with their solution? How demeaning, that my thoughts are not worth you at least listening to the entire sentence. That’s boring to me. I say half a sentence and then you say 10 paragraphs.”
Conviction, conviction, conviction!
There are three mental checks that I now use in my conversations:
- I keep a mental stopwatch. Am I talking more than the other person in this conversation? I’m amazed at how often I – and you – don’t realize when I/you are the loudest and longest voice in the room.
- I listen to the Spirit. God what is this person really saying and how can I speak Your words to them? Listening to the Spirit reveals what a person is really saying, behind the words. I’ve learned that while I can predict what a person is going to say next, the Spirit knows the deep thoughts that are the issue.
- I speak a blessing. Somewhere in a conversation, I want to say something encouraging. I want to give a gift of grace, making anyone that I talk with glad that they had a conversation with me.
As you now know, I was complimented recently on my new listening skills. I enjoy conversations more than ever.
I also realize that the Interruptions that I write, and you read are still a symptom of my deep-seated need to talk!