“He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.”
I have written and deleted several posts over the past 10 days. Nothing seemed to speak to me. It has been a rough month with sickness in our home, so my quiet time is difficult. Mostly, I have wanted to sleep. Today, however, I came across this status update on Facebook by Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries and I knew immediately this was my Goliath for the week.
What if we made the commitment today to do more listening than speaking? I think I’m going to try this. I’m going to challenge myself to not interrupt. Wait until there is a true pause in the conversation. Truly consider what the other person has said. And then respond with care.
My problem is I find myself practically jumping up and down to put my two cents into a conversation rather frequently. As a consequence, I end up missing much of what the other person is saying. I am not truly listening. I may hear them, but as a mother, I know hearing and listening are not the same thing. As I have stated in past blog posts, God has called me to love those around me better. Listening is part of that. As Lysa states, we should “truly consider what the other person has said. And then respond with care.” This is a small change that has huge effects.
So, I am going to follow the wisdom given in Proverbs 18:13: “He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame.” I am going to wait to hear the entirety of what someone has to say instead of springing my thought in at the first slight pause. I want to consider what the person is saying so that I might thoughtfully craft an answer or continuation of the conversation. James echoes a similar sentiment in 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.” When we begin to listen to what others are saying, we begin to understand the other person better, we are able to communicate better and we are less likely to jump to unfair conclusions.
Listening before you speak has an effect on so many areas of our life. Imagine if you applied this to your family. How about those around you? Perhaps we would be more likely to see those subtle cries for help. Or maybe we could see the fear or doubt the other person is feeling. Perhaps you might even begin to see that person’s acts of love towards you. Listening brings greater understanding, not just of those around you, but of yourself. You begin to see how you react to others around you and the areas of your life that need some attention.
Why is it so dangerous to speak quickly? I would like to point to two places in scripture. The first is James 1:20, the verse immediately following the one quoted above. Why should we be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry? Verse 20 says, “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” The second passage in the Bible I want to highlight is Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Both of these verses present a similar picture, speaking too quickly causes us to become unnecessarily angry and sin in a variety of ways.
Anger and sin get in the way of our relationship with God. There is no getting around it. When we are not communicating effectively, which means listening and responding appropriately, we are falling short of where God wants us to be. Plus, we are not being good examples of God. Let me give you a real life example. I have three young boys. There are some days where it seems as if every request and command goes unheard. By the end of the day I am exhausted and frustrated. I question myself and my effectiveness as a mother. Some days I am just plain angry. Why won’t they listen?! Have you ever felt that way? Perhaps it was a spouse, friend or other family member instead. The feeling is still the same. When we speak before listening, I imagine this is how the other person feels.
Perhaps you are reading this thinking, I do not do this. I am quiet and reserved. Well, do not close this post yet. Remember, there are two parts to listening. After listening and considering what the other person says, you should be responding with care. Sometimes it is prudent to keep your thoughts to yourself. However, there are many times the person NEEDS to hear your response. Think of a conversation where the only response you get is the occasional “uh-huh”. I doubt you feel as if the other person valued your conversation. This could lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. This may not be your intention, but this could easily be the result.
Will you join me in tackling Lysa’s challenge? Let’s not interrupt others in conversation, thoughtfully consider what the person is saying, and respond with care. This small act has big results. You never know the impact a prudent word can have.