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Communicating God's Way: Learn to Listen

Communicating God’s Way: Learn to Listen! 

We’re learning to communicate God’s way as we work our way through a series intent on finding the areas in which we ruin marital communication, and re-aligning them with God’s desires.  Today we’re going to discuss the importance of listening. Really listening. Not just to each other, but to God as well. Honestly, if we could all master just this one area of communication, what a difference it would make! But alas, we are a society that has forgotten how to listen. So, we must re-learn this lost virtue, and who better to learn from than our Creator? 

James 1:19-25 – Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 
But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the Word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 
 

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak 

Our focus passage today from James 1 starts out with a plain and simple imperative: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. We’ll deal with anger in minute, but first let’s talk about being quick to listen and slow to speak.

God made me with a quick wit, a love for words, and a sharp intuition, and while there is value in all those qualities, there is also great danger. It’s very easy for me to assume my snap judgement of a situation is accurate (because it usually is) and to start pouring my words into it. In other words, it’s really easy for me to start talking without having first listened. 

Proverbs 18:21 – The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. 

As God continues to lovingly chip away at my sinful nature, I have begun to see the damage that can so easily be done from my quick to speak, slow to listen approach. See, even when my intuition IS right, people are less inclined to take the advice of someone who hasn’t taken the time to listen to them. We establish a level of respect in a conversation when we take the time to prove to our partners that we understand the situation for what it is before vomiting our own words all over it.  

People are less inclined to hear someone who hasn't taken the time to listen to them. We establish a level of respect when we prove we want to understand others BEFORE we speak into the situation. Click To Tweet

Proverbs 18:17 – The first to speak in court sounds right – until the cross-examination begins. 

Proverbs 17:28 – Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. 

How perfectly do those proverbs put into words the danger of being quick to speak? How many times do we open our mouths and find ourselves impressed by our own wisdom, until the other person speaks and we realize we had it all wrong? How much humiliation could we save ourselves if we just listened first? 

Fools Fight, While the Wise are Tempered 

A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Proverbs 17:27

Our focus passage from James 1 didn’t just say we should be quick to listen and slow to speak, though, did it? It added the mandate that we be slow to get angry as well. How many problems with our marital communication (or all our communication) could be solved if we took just that one piece of advice from our Lord? 

Proverbs 18:2 – Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. 

But the fact is, most of us have very little interest in truly understanding our spouse. We don’t want to listen to their side of things and try to put ourselves in their shoes. We don’t really care how the situations might look from their perspective. What we do want is to give them a piece of our mind. We want to tell them what the situation IS, not hear what it could be.  

As a result, when we start spouting off and are met with anything short of capitulation, we lose it. And what lies at the heart of this issue is simply that we just don’t care enough about our partner to consider any position other than our own. Of course, deep down, we know this is wrong, and the guilt of it all makes us angry.

The result – utter foolishness! 

Proverbs 18:13 – Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. 

The Staying Power of True Listening 

So, in order to be a good listener we need to be slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because listening isn’t just about hearing words, but about seeking understanding. This brings us back to a profound truth about listening that is revealed through our focus passage in James. While this passage is talking about listening to God, which we’ll talk about soon, the same concept can be applied to any kind of listening. 

But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the Word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 

True listening isn’t just about hearing. It’s about allowing what we’ve heard to change us. Good listeners are going to ACT on what they’ve heard, because truly good listening isn’t just about getting information, but about applying it. 

True listening isn't about hearing. It's about allowing what we've heard to change us. Good listeners ACT on what they've heard. Click To Tweet

How many of us have had a conversation with someone else in which it really seemed like they had heard us, only to find that in time, nothing changed? How many of us still felt like we had been listened to at that point? None of us, right? Instead we were brought to the realization that, either we hadn’t actually been heard, or the other person just didn’t care much about us. 

That’s what we communicate when we fail to TRULY listen. We communicate that we don’t care. Whether it’s what we mean to say or not, we demonstrate that we don’t care enough to try to understand, we don’t care enough to consider another, and we don’t care enough to put action to our words. We don’t care enough to change. 

7 Steps to Becoming a Better Listener

Learn to Listen to God First 

It’s bad enough that our poor listening skills so negatively affect our marriages, but what is truly devastating is that they spill over into our relationship with God as well. Most of the time, we treat our relationship with Him in the same way we treat our relationship with everyone else in our lives. 

We’re quick to speak, and slow to listen instead of the other way around. 

We spend plenty of time telling Him how things are, what needs to change, what He should do, and so forth, but little to no time listening to Him tell us those same things. Imagine how much foolishness we could save ourselves from if we’d flip it around! 

Proverbs 2:1-6 – My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ear to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  

Friends, may we all start today! Let’s open our Bibles and read it with ears to hear. When we’ve finished, let’s get on our faces in humility before our God and ask Him to give us understanding. Then, as we quietly consider what we read, let’s just listen to Him. And as we hear from Him, may we be forever changed by His words! May we never walk away and forget them, but instead put action to every truth He reveals. As we’re faithful in this, He will teach us wisdom, and we’ll be able apply these same principles as we communicate with others. 

*How about you? Do you have a hard time listening? What seems to be getting in your way? How have you had success in overcoming these struggles?


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***Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  1. Alice Mills

    No better validation exists than listening intently to someone without preparing your response while you do it. We often think the goal of communication is to win an argument. But really, the goal of communication is to achieve mutual understanding. When we honor people by listening to them, we create an atmosphere of trust, even when we disagree.

  2. Carolina

    I can’t remember right now, but I read somewhere that “we listen to understant and not to respond”. That phrase really stuck with me and is something that I really need to work on. Great post, thanks for sharing

    • Esther Hosea

      Yes! It was very convicting for ME as the words escaped my fingertips!! Haha. I love the way God uses this writing journey to work on me far more than others. It is rare that I write something that doesn’t sting deeply in my own life!

  3. Jennifer

    This is a great post! I have a bad habit of thinking about what I am going to say while the other person is speaking. I got in this habit while married to my ex and he was verbally abusive. He expected an answer as soon as he stopped speaking. I am really working at breaking this habit and this post has some great insight into how to do that!

    • Esther Hosea

      Thanks Jennifer! I can relate. I sometimes do the same thing. Learning to listen really does take some intentional, hard work. But it’s so worth it! It is one of the simplest ways to show people we love them!

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