by Christina Book
Close your eyes and imagine yourself alone in a barren desert. You open your mouth and cry out, “Is anyone listening to me?” Of course, there is no response.
Now picture yourself in a crowd full of people and crying out the same thing. In the crowd of people, most will ignore you or think you’re weird, but someone may stop to listen. You start to tell them your story, but before you finish, they interrupt and say, “I had an experience like that, too. Here’s what you should do.” Frustration wells up in your heart, and you cry out, “Does anyone hear me? I mean, really hear me?”
Even though we are surrounded by a sea of people, we feel like we are alone in a desert.
Recently, I’ve paid a lot of attention to how people listen (or don’t listen). I learned very quickly that we live in a culture of people who don’t listen. There are many reasons for this, but the main reason we don’t stop and listen to each other is because we are too consumed with ourselves.
Sometimes it is the simplest things that people need to say, and they just want to be heard. At times it is larger things that people want to share, and we really need to buckle down and just listen to what they have to say. While there is time for giving advice and speaking up, there is also a time to just be still and give the person talking the validation of who they are as a child of God — someone worthy to be heard.
I know I’m guilty of being caught up with what I want to say and even thinking about other things instead of truly listening and responding to the speaker. Lately, I’ve been working on being a better listener. How? How can you and I cultivate a desire to truly listen to others? Well, we can pray for it, No. 1! And as we depend on God’s grace for growth, here are three practical ways in which we can build good listening skills.
1. Outdo one another in honor.
Romans 12:10 says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” This affection and honor to the people in our lives can be displayed through respect, validation and honor. Outdoing someone is trying to go beyond what they did. You don’t have to carry around a stopwatch to time your conversations to make sure that you listened more than they did, but think about how much of the conversation is you talking and how much is the other person talking. Show them honor.
2. Be interested in others.
Instead of focusing on ourselves in conversations and striving to keep our wants and desires at the center, we should seek ways to serve the people around us. Paul wrote, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
We all have interests and desires, but are we also interested in the things that others are interested in and desire? It takes a humble heart to be really interested in anyone. C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote of a humble person, “Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.”
3. Love truly.
It also takes a heart of true love to enter into someone’s life. For “[l]ove…does not insist on its own way…love bears all things…endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:5,7). When we insist that everything has to be done our way, pressing our own ideas, opinions and lessons on people, and failing to “bear” or “endure” someone’s burdens by listening to them, we aren’t truly loving them. Jesus commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). We don’t usually find it hard to listen to ourselves; in fact, we always listen to ourselves, whether we want to or not. In a similar way, we should be very quick to listen out of love to the people God has put in our lives.
As someone who loves to talk (and talk and talk) and knows that it is hard to listen, I ask you to join me in learning how to listen by being less consumed with ourselves and more focused on the people around us. By God’s grace, let’s build honor, interest and love for others.
We need to remember that God always listens to us, and He is never too busy to truly hear what we have to say (Jeremiah 33:3). We can show Christ’s love by simply stopping to listen to the hungry heart crying out, “Does anyone hear me?” We can answer, “I hear you.” And those simple words, spoken sincerely, will mean so much.
Christina Book is owned by Christ, a junior at Moody Distance Learning, and blogs at www.mattersofherheartministries.blogspot.com.
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