Are You Listening?

Do you have a hard time listening to others? Talking is easy for most of us, but listening is a skill that must be learned. James 1:18 exhorts us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” As I used to tell my kids, “That’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth” so we listen more than we speak. We all want to get our two cents in, right? Rather than listening to what the other person is saying we are thinking about what we want to say next.

I get so exasperated having to repeat myself these days. Either people just don’t want to listen or they don’t know how to listen or they don’t even realize they aren’t listening. Someone once told me “You know, you repeat yourself.” My answer was “That’s because I want to make sure you hear me.” How frustrating!

What about listening to God? Do you believe that God speaks to us? Well, I am living-proof to tell you that He certainly does. He speaks to all of us in different ways. Some hear His still small voice in the quiet of nature, in the melody of a song or the beauty of a painting. Others hear Him through the words of others, scripture, prayer and meditation. God knows how to communicate to each of His children.

The question is “Am I listening?” Each of us must answer that question for ourselves. What I can tell you is that a good way to know is to look at our lives. Is it bearing good fruit or not? In other words, am I at peace, productive, joyful, helping others? Or am I living a self-centered life looking only to gratify my fleshly desires?

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, so if you want to get closer to God, make time today to spend with Him. He promises that He will answer if we listen. Jeremiah 33:3 says “Call to me and I will answer and I will teach you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

Are You Listening?

Do you have a hard time listening to others? Talking is easy for most of us, but listening is a skill that must be learned. James 1:18 exhorts us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” As I used to tell my kids, “That’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth” so we listen more than we speak. We all want to get our two cents in, right? Rather than listening to what the other person is saying we are thinking about what we want to say next.

I get so exasperated having to repeat myself these days. Either people just don’t want to listen or they don’t know how to listen or they don’t even realize they aren’t listening. Someone once told me “You know, you repeat yourself.” My answer was “That’s because I want to make sure you hear me.” How frustrating!

What about listening to God? Do you believe that God speaks to us? Well, I am living-proof to tell you that He certainly does. He speaks to all of us in different ways. Some hear His still small voice in the quiet of nature, in the melody of a song or the beauty of a painting. Others hear Him through the words of others, scripture, prayer and meditation. God knows how to communicate to each of His children.

The question is “Am I listening?” Each of us must answer that question for ourselves. What I can tell you is that a good way to know is to look at our lives. Is it bearing good fruit or not? In other words, am I at peace, productive, joyful, helping others? Or am I living a self-centered life looking only to gratify my fleshly desires?

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, so if you want to get closer to God, make time today to spend with Him. He promises that He will answer if we listen. Jeremiah 33:3 says “Call to me and I will answer and I will teach you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

Seek to Understand

Ever feel like no one understands you? That no one is listening? We all want to be heard and understood, right? But do we really listen to others?

St. Francis of Assisi said it first: “Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.”

Steven Covey, in his bestselling book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” talks about the 5th Habit being “Seek to Understand.” So many times we are thinking about what we want to say next, what our experience was, give advice or ask a question. I know I am very guilty of this. Mr. Covey suggests that we change our habit to learn to really listen to the other person. He calls is “empathic listening”: really trying to understand what the other person is feeling behind their words.

Jesus himself said, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19).

It’s a hard habit to break, but if I apply the slow to speak principle, I am more apt to listen better. Then I can work on framing my response in a more empathetic way. Instead of focusing on how I can “help” the person solve their problem, I think Covey is saying it is more important to focus on making them feel heard by empathizing with them. Empathize means understanding the feelings of another.

Today, I resolve to listen better, speak slower, and really try to empathize with others. Good listening really is a skill and a gift we give to others. It is truly loving your neighbor as yourself.