Thursday, July 16

Courageous listening

Scripture: Isaiah 29-31, James 1

James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

Observation/Application

James writes about practical Christian living, and nothing is more practical—and needed—than this verse.  We must be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.  

Be quick to listen.  Pastor Michael is speaking on listening this weekend.  It is so important, especially in this toxic environment when so many people are entrenched in their ideology, and are not listening, but lobbing angry verbal bombs at each other.  

To be quick to listen means that I approach a conversation as a learner, eager to listen to the other person’s perspective.  I rarely learn when I’m talking, but I often do when I listen!  

Here’s an important listening tip: Listen to understand, not argue.  Listen to learn, not rebut.  Often, we’re not really listening, we’re only waiting to speak.  We’re not curious about the other person’s point of view; we’re busy marshaling our arguments.  We don’t listen courageously to understand; we listen selectively to win.  This is not good listening.

I was with a friend yesterday who used the phrase “courageous listening” and said that we need to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations and that will require courageous listening.  I’ve been thinking about that…

Courageous listening begins with humility.  I don’t know it all.  I’m not always right.  I have much to learn.  Don’t be afraid to challenge your own assumptions and thinking.  You might be wrong—and it takes courage to face and admit that, and listen.  

Courageous listening depends on curiosity.  And curiosity grows out of humility.  When I acknowledge that I don’t know it all, hopefully that leads to a curious desire to learn.  When someone expresses a viewpoint different than your own, rather than arguing or rebutting, ask some curious questions—and learn.  You won’t always agree, but at least you’ll understand.

Courageous listening is hard.  It’s not easy; it’s not natural.  Naturally, we all want to be right—about everything!  My wife says that my love language is being right.  I think it’s universal—it’s everyone’s love language!  We want to be right; we don’t want to listen to a different point of view.  This is hard—it’s hard for me.  I want to argue and win!  I want to be right!  Courage listening is hard.  But it’s the right thing to do.  Again, you won’t always agree, but you’ll understand.

One of the things I’m trying to do is to seek out and listen to opposing views.  When I read an opinion piece on CNN, I’ll try to find an opposing view on Fox News—and vice versa.  I’m trying to train myself to be a good listener, and not just surround myself with voices that sound like me.  I’m trying to understand different perspectives.  It’s not easy…but it’s worth it. 

Be quick to listen.

Prayer: Lord, help me be a better listener, a courageous listener.