We live in an age of instant communication. We can reach almost anyone any time and get any information with the click of a few buttons. This is all good for many reasons, but in the process sometimes we forget how to really listen to people.
The Bible teaches us to listen to God’s word always. But how do we listen? He speaks to us in so many ways. Through his word we learn the things that are necessary for us to know but I believe he speaks in other ways, too. Have you ever been in the mountains during a storm? If you listen, you hear the majesty and the power that is God. In the voice and actions of a newborn child we see and hear the hope and promise of the future. Sitting by the seashore you not only see power and beauty, but order; the waves roll in without end but stay within their bounds. We just have to listen.
I think the same thing holds true with listening to each other. Because we lead such busy lives, sometimes we forget to listen to those around us. How often do we find ourselves telling our children, spouse, or friends that we are too busy to talk? Most of the time that attitude is fine, but are we really listening – not just with our ears but with our hearts? I have many times in my life found that when someone wants to talk they have something troubling them. They don’t say so in so many words but it becomes obvious in time. When you read about Jesus talking and teaching, he listens to the heart. The rich young ruler is an example. He said all the right words but Jesus listened to his heart. I know we will never be able to discern people’s hearts like Jesus but we can learn to listen with our hearts. Most of the time people don’t want you to solve their problems, they just need to be heard and know that someone will take the time to listen. Young people especially need this. They are growing and experiencing so many new things. They need someone to hear them and help them find the right direction, not by telling them this is what you have to do, but by listening and asking questions that will help them think things through on their own.
When we are teaching others it is so important that we listen to them so that we will really know where they are spiritually. Those of us that have been blessed to be raised in a Christian home with godly parents sometime forget that there are those who don’t have any background in the Bible. I remember sitting in on a class one time with the teacher making references to an Old Testament Bible story that most in the class knew, but the young woman didn’t have a clue what it was about. She didn’t say anything until asked.
We are all different and have had different experiences so it is vital that we really listen. Even if what we hear is not comfortable for us. When I started to work with disadvantaged students at the high school level I really had to learn to listen and not judge until I spent time with them. They came from homes that had not prepared them to work in a way that was acceptable. They didn’t know how to express themselves in good ways. It took time and understanding to help them. I bring this up because the one thing that was impressed on me by my father was that, in teaching someone, you have to start where they are. Our understanding of what someone says is not always what they are trying to say. Our understanding comes from our own experiences in life, so when trying to listen to someone else we have to try to put away our filters. If they have had no instruction in the Bible or even in how to speak or behave in what we consider an acceptable manner then we have to start there, not judging but helping them to learn better.
The examples in the Bible of Jesus teaching people that were not considered the “right” kind of people or acceptable. We need to be ready to help as many people as we can. This includes those we do not in the beginning believe are teachable. Be a person with an open heart and mind, be ready to listen and respond. We can only help if we get to know a person and that can only happen if we can listen with an open mind and heart and not judge.
In every relationship in our life, listening is a key to be successful.