Practicing the Art of Listening

Proverbs 18:13 NRSV
If one gives answer before hearing,
it is folly and shame.


I don't know whether or not I'm a baby boomer, but I do know that I've grown up in the era of psychology. Everything is about learning how to relate to others, learning how to know one's self, figuring out why we are dysfunctional.

One of the psychological "skills" that has been taught a lot is active listening. Wikipedia gives a great definition:

"When interacting, people often are not listening attentively to one another. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next, (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements). Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others. It focuses attention on the speaker. Suspending one's own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important in order to fully attend to the speaker." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening).

It's interesting to me that the Bible was talking about active listening long before we even had psychologists. "If one gives answer before hearing . . ." Even if we hear the sounds that doesn't mean that we are hearing the content. The reality is that if we are thinking about how to respond rather than truly listening, we are focusing (again) on ourselves rather than the other person. We are working on a "defense" for our own position, rather than really caring about how that other person feels (and thinks). We are concerned about protecting ourselves rather than trusting God to protect us.

Proverbs tells us that this kind of behavior is folly and shame. Folly because it's foolish to think that we could protect ourselves anyway. Shame because it is sin.

Today as we have conversations with others, let's practice really listening. Don't worry about having a response right away. (There's really nothing wrong with the silence while you think about what to say!). Instead focus on what the other person is saying (and feeling). Let's learn how to be concerned about them and trust God to take care of us!

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Copyright by Robin L. O'Hare.
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