Remember the old adage that our parents always told us when they caught us doing wrong: “A little bird told me”? I always thought that my parents listened to birds!! Turns out, they were usually just listening to me! Well, guess what? Did you know that adage actually came straight out of scripture? We find it in Proverbs 10:20 (NIV) “. . . a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.”
Who is a good listener God has placed in your life?
Today we are studying scriptures where the Bible addresses the importance of listening. It appears that God put “a lot of stock” in being a listener. Some of these verses seem to point to being a good listener to what God is saying, while others point to listening to others. Let’s look at several things the Bible has to say about listening. Could it be that your special gift is simply “listening”?
Proverbs 5:1-2 “…listen well…that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.”
Proverbs 8:6 “Listen, for I have worthy things to say.”
Proverbs 8:34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me…”
Proverbs 12:15 “… a wise man listens to advice.”
Proverbs 18:15 “He who answers before listening--
that is his folly and his shame.”
Proverbs 20:12 “Ears that hear and eyes that see--
the Lord has made them both.”
Proverbs 23:19 “Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart
on the right path.
Luke 8:17 “Consider carefully how you listen.”
James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen. . .”
Why do you think God emphasizes “listening” throughout scripture?
Roadblocks to Listening
1. Getting distracted--your phone, computer, messages, someone walks in the room, etc.
3. Topping the speaker's story
4. Becoming defensive.
5. Giving unsolicited advice
6. Thinking we are too busy
Often we find ourselves feeling like we just don’t have time to call a certain person because it may “take a while” to get off the phone. Or perhaps we casually ask someone how they are doing—not expecting a sincere, lengthy answer—and we find ourselves “trapped” in a conversation we didn't expect.
What are some other roadblocks to being a good listener?
1. Use telephone time wisely: make and receive phone calls when the family/spouse is otherwise occupied. A woman with a telephone receiver for an ear is not particularly attractive. Spouses/kids do not want to feel that they are competing for your attention.
2. Make time but set boundaries: Make telephone dates with friends and/or relatives when it is a good time to talk (listen). Limit sharing time on the phone to a certain length. As a rule, people can solve their own problems by talking them out. But be sure to set boundaries when using your phone for whatever reason. Learn to say “NO.” Folks tend to say the same thing over and over and that is not helpful to either of you.
3. When being a good listener, give no advice, no matter how tempting. It is very tempting to offer our opinion, usually by saying, “I shouldn't say this, but..” Then don’t say it! Give advice when requested.
4. If you do feel the need, share only your own personal experiences. Preface your perspective with something like “I don’t know if this would apply to your situation, but here’s what did and/or didn’t help me in a similar situation.”
5. Oftentimes if you just quietly listen and repeat back to someone what they have said, they will find their own answer or comfort. Remember that most people who want to be listened to don’t have a problem—they just want their feelings to be aired.
6. When listening, be alert to refer folks to experts for whatever they seem to need help in. Don’t try to be a counselor and don’t act as if you know the answer to everything.
7. If you are listening in person, maintain eye contact. Don’t be afraid of silences or tears. Let your phone go to your recorder when you are listening to someone else.
8. Assure the listener that you will keep their confidence, if that appears to be an issue with them. Then DO NOT tell your spouse, friend, pastor (in order to ask for prayer), or anyone else without asking your friend if they would be comfortable letting you share their situation. (Actually, to be a really good listener, you should feel that ALL conversations are in confidence, unless you are asked to repeat it specifically to anyone else.)
9. There is always the chance that in being a good listener you will get caught up in other folks’ lives to an unhealthy degree. Don’t give too much of yourself away to others. God gave us our spouses, families and/or children to be nurtured and loved by us. If I am preoccupied, exhausted, worried or have neglected my errands, shopping, chores, housekeeping, or cooking to be with others, then I feel God is not pleased with my choice of priorities. God will give us the time we need to be a good listener, if we are properly taking care of our primary responsibilities.
10. Lastly, be cautious who you share with and to whom you listen. Pray for the Lord’s guidance before, after and during your conversations. Lay all of your newly found burdens and cares at God’s feet. Ask that He will allow you to listen to people but not to lose your own joy by carrying the feelings and problems of others.
What makes someone a good listener?
What do you look for in someone you are willing to share with?
Acceptance? A non-judgmental attitude? A gentle spirit?
If we are to pray and care for one another, how can we do it if we do not know the needs of others? How can we know others’ needs if we do not listen to them express their needs? And we must also practice what we preach. We must not keep our feelings to ourselves to the point that we refuse to acknowledge that we also need the help of others and God to lead a healthy and productive Christian life. God’s presence today is made known mostly through His children here on earth. Let’s all agree to let God use us to reach others by both sharing and listening. If you do not make time to listen to your spouse, your children, or your friends, then you are robbing yourself of precious moments and opportunities to serve God in a unique way.