Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re telling a story and within the first ten seconds it seems no one is paying attention any longer? Or been asked, “How are you doing?” and before you can get a word out of your mouth the inquirer has moved on to the next person? Have you ever found yourself entrenched in a sensitive and emotional conversation and realized the listener seems to be zoning out? Do you feel like you’re always having to repeat yourself? Or do you often feel like people are talking over you?
I find myself in these types of situations often – and admittedly I sometimes am the person who’s not being a good listener. Listening is a rare quality these days. And while most folks are born with two ears and perfect hearing, they don’t seem to hear a word we say.
Sometimes it’s difficult to really listen to people. Life demands so much of our attention that our brain is often going a hundred miles a minute trying to wrap itself around our own ‘stuff’. But James directs us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We are to give our full attention to those around us – especially those whom we are speaking to. This means our children, our spouse, our boss, our co-workers, our neighbors, the deli counter attendant, the telemarketer on the phone, the elderly lady sitting next to you at church, etc. If we develop an attitude of listening, we’re going to be able to pick up on the problems our children are having in school; or the fact our spouse feels unappreciated; or the financial difficulties our neighbors are having; or the loneliness the elderly woman feels. When we listen and really hear people we’ll be better equipped to pray for them and to meet their needs.
I encourage and challenge you to take some time today to really listen to those around you. Stop what you’re doing and really focus on what’s coming out of their mouth. Do they need to be encouraged, uplifted, congratulated, or even just inspired? Try it, you may just learn something new!