Listening More and Talking Less

Proverbs 18:2
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing personal opinion.

Proverbs talks a lot about, well, talking! I think that we often confirm who we are (whether we want to be that person or not) when we talk. Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” And yet, we still talk. We talk in person. We talk (and text) on cell phones. We talk on the Internet. We talk, talk, talk. And a great deal of the time, we are “expressing personal opinion.”

It’s interesting that this proverb contrasts “understanding” and “personal opinion.” I always thought that my personal opinions were right! But as I grow older, I’m coming to realize that I’m often wrong. Ouch! James 1:19 tells us to be quick to listen and be slow to speak. How often do we listen, truly listen?

Listening is a ministry. When we listen, we give the gift of love and attention to the other person. We submit ourselves to them. Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit to each other. Philippians 2:3 tells us to esteem others as better than ourselves. We can do both of these things when we choose to listen rather than to talk. Do you know that you can learn how to pray for someone just by listening to what they have to say?

The other side of all this is that entrenched personal opinions often mean that we have stopped learning. If we are so convinced that we are right, then we don’t think there is anything left for us to learn. Many people have come to horribly wrong conclusions without much hope of ever changing because they have an invested stake in their opinions. As believers, we always want to be teachable, to understand that there is so much that the Holy Spirit still wants to teach us. All learning needs to be done through and with prayer, but we need to be always learning. A dear friend of mine, now in heaven, even in her 80’s cultivated the friendships of many younger than her because of her desire to learn new things. (She bought her first computer at age 79!).

As we walk about our lives today, let’s practice listening more and talking less, at releasing our personal opinions in favor of being teachable. I’m game. How about you?