The Benefits of Busting Up Your Echo Chamber

Recently I was sitting in a meeting, working hard not to squirm in my seat. The views being expressed felt harsh and personal. The words pouring out of a new friend’s mouth seemed like an attack, and I wanted to defend. To explain. To argue.

But I didn’t do any of those things, because I’m working hard to live out our lessons about listening Those lessons include:

  • Only Scripture is true. Human opinions are just opinions.
  • To gain the rewards of listening, we have to lose our “one right way” of thinking.
  • Elevating our own opinions to truth shuts down dialogue. Listening with the fruits of the Spirit builds dialogue.
  • Listening = Love.

Instead of attacking, defending, explaining, or arguing, I listened without speaking. I didn’t agree with every word my friend spoke, but I learned some new things. I absorbed an experience different than my own. I built the relationship in a way that will allow me to speak my perspective at the right time.

Putting myself in positions where I feel the pinch of unease isn’t easy, but it’s good. The echo chamber that I lived in for years wasn’t helpful at all. It kept me comfortable but unchanged.

What’s an echo chamber?

We’ve created an echo chamber when we surround ourselves with voices who echo back our own ideas, thoughts, values, experiences and perspectives.

As humans, we’re all looking for those who are like us and a place to belong. The way we most often do that is to form an echo chamber which is a natural default but not the best way to learn and grow. We create echo chambers all the time by choosing TV news that supports what we already think, by following people on social media that post what what we already agree with, and by choosing friends who look how we look and live how we live.

There’s a comfort level to all that sameness, but it keeps us from understanding another’s perspective. It keeps us from learning and growing. It even keeps us from being solution-bearers since we never expose ourselves to two sides of a problem.

So I’ve been working to bust up my echo chamber.

How do you bust up an echo chamber? 

The only way to bust up our echo chambers is to be intentional. We have to seek out voices and perspectives different from our own, make friends with those who move outside our natural communities, and listen when we’d rather argue.

Because God has been putting racial reconciliation on my heart, I’ve taken steps to specifically listen and learn about that issue. Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to bust up my echo chamber:

  • I’ve started following women of color in social media. A few of my favorites are Chrystal Evans Hurst, Jackie Hill Perry and Arielle Estoria.
  • I joined a Bible study in a church that’s historically a black church. Not only do a receive great teaching every week, but I’m making new friends who have voices that I care about.
  • I’m listening to podcasts with perspectives that challenge my own. Two of my favorites are The TED Radio Hour and Lavar Burton Reads. (The second I love, love, love. There’s no better way to step into someone else shoes than by listening to a story.)
  • I’ve attended a conference that included both black and white leaders. So powerful to hear many perspectives!

What is God moving your heart to learn about? What issue do you feel led to eventually speak into? Find and follow people who speak into all sides of that issue.

How do you cling to the Truth in the process?

Although I’m asking you to join me in listening to voices out there that don’t echo your own, I’m NOT asking you to embrace all those voices say. That’s not at all the point of busting up your echo chamber.

Instead, at the end of this series on listening, I return to the beginning. Here’s the sub-set process within our listening:

Listen to God (first and always first) –> Listen to others –> Listen to God (last and always last)

All that we hear must be compared with Scripture, the only reliable Truth. We must be like the people that Luke commended in the book of Acts, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)

Let’s read like Bereans, listen like Bereans, and learn like Bereans. That doesn’t mean that we only consider what’s true, but it does mean that we only absorb what’s True according to Scripture.

With the rest of the information, we learn how to develop a strong voice that’s under-girded by a tender heart. When it’s time, we’re ready to speak.

Please share what you’ve learned in this series about listening. What’s the issue God is putting on your heart? Who do you recommend that I follow as I bust up my echo chamber?

This is the last week in the “Listen” series, but hang tight with me! Next week I have an exciting announcement, and then we’ll roll on in our process to:

Listen –> Feel –> Do –> Speak

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And the Winners Are…

Well, friends, it’s been a cra-cra week, so there’s no new blog post. The last post in the “Listen” series will be next week. Stay tuned!

And could I ask you to pray? This weekend is my youngest son’s graduation (YAY!), and he gets married in two weeks (even bigger YAAAAAY!). Two weeks after that is the launch of Exhale, my new book co-authored with Cheri Gregory. Let’s just say it’s to-do list mania around here. Please pray that my feeble brain can remember all that needs done!

Below, I’m announcing all the winners of the books I’ve featured, but if you didn’t win, you still don’t want to miss these. Here are the links one more time for easy access:

The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter by Lori Roeleveld

Tough to Love: How to Find Peace in Difficult Relationships by Rachel Britton

Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters by Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh

And the winners are…

Jeanie (5/2/19 10:16 am)- The Art of Hard Conversation

Adrienne (4/25/19 6:58 am)- Tough to Love

Paula (4/19/19 8:07 pm)- Mended

Neko (4/11/19 2:31 pm)- Exhale necklace

At no additional expense to you, there are affiliate links included in this post to help defray the cost of website maintenance. Click here for my disclosure.

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Are Your Words Grounded and Timed in Love?

At no additional cost to you, there are affiliate links in this post to help defray the cost of website maintenance. Click here for full disclosure.

The last in our series of guest posts about listening comes from Lori Stanley Roeleveld, and it packs a truth-punch! In this excerpt from her new book The Art of Hard Conversations, Lori shows us the key when it’s time to move from listening to speaking in hard situations. Make sure to read to the end for a chance to win a copy of this helpful book!s

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I was surprised when Carly invited me to lunch.

Our church had been experiencing a conflict that had divided many. Carly and I had had numerous hard conversations about her attitude. Our last conversation had been particularly adversarial, so I was nervous that our meeting might be a vengeful ambush.

Carly arrived after I did, and once we ordered, she didn’t keep me in suspense. “I need your help and your prayers. My doctor called me to discuss my most recent test results, and I don’t want to face it alone. Can you come along?”

I was taken aback. “Of course. Still, I’m surprised you’re asking me.”

“Why?” she said, leaning back in the booth.

“Well, our last few exchanges haven’t been the most comfortable,” I replied.

She nodded. “In fact, I hated those conversations. But through everything, one thing that’s always been clear is that you love me. It takes a huge commitment to love to stick with someone through talks like that. Other people probably have thought those things and just given up on me or walked away. I’ll take the tough talks as long as there’s the love.”

Love is a multidimensional quality. It’s both a noun, representing a feeling, and a verb, representing actions that put others first.

In John 21, after Jesus has risen from the dead, He appears to some of the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. In verses 15–19, over breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times about his love for Him. Peter answers three times that He does, indeed, love Jesus. Jesus’s response to each affirmative answer is to call Peter to action—feeding Jesus’s sheep—in demonstration of this love.

To say that we love others is to say we’re willing to risk our own discomfort to speak hard things to them.

To say that we love Jesus is to say we are ready to obey Him by living and speaking the truth. To say that we love Jesus is to say we are willing to reflect Him by loving and serving others. To say that we love others is to say we’re willing to risk our own discomfort to speak hard things to them.

Love is a feeling that leads to action.

When we prepare for any hard conversation, we must ask ourselves questions about love. Do I love this person, and if not, what am I going to do about that? Am I being loving to speak this truth in this way, at this time, to this person?

Some believers falsely assume that to be loving means to stay silent about truth or to compromise it in some way. Others are so afraid that loving feelings will lead to a softening of truth, they harden their hearts toward others and eschew mercy. This is dangerous thinking—both for the church of Jesus Christ and ultimately for the world.

The world (meaning people who don’t follow Jesus) has absconded with love, replacing God’s idea of love with a facsimile that many buy as the real thing. And not just the world. Some parts of the body of Christ believe that to be loving, biblical truth must be muted or modified.

Not so. Jesus walked on Earth living out perfect love while delivering perfect truth. It is possible. It’s not possible without Jesus, but it’s possible. Love and truth can occupy the same space, just as surely as Christ was fully human and fully God.

I’m aware that these two words frustrate, frighten, or trigger a wound reflex in some people. We’ve heard this phrase before, perhaps tossed around the church like a beach ball (or a dodge ball).

“I’m just speaking the truth in love, is all.”

“Well, don’t you know you have to speak truth in love?”

Intended for useful instruction, this power-filled phrase from Ephesians 4 is too often snapped from its context like a tree branch and used to club innocent passersby in Jesus’s name. The misguided speaker is often leaning heavily toward a personal interpretation of truth, while offering only a passing nod at anything others might recognize as love.

Inhale. Exhale. It’s tempting to edit from Scripture any passage that’s been misused, but this would be detrimental (not to mention heretical). Agreed, there has been a shameful amount of bullying that’s occurred in Jesus’s name. This speaking the truth in love concept has too often been the last word spiritually bludgeoned victims hear just before they hit the mat.

The worse thing we can do, though—worse than lancing the wounds—is to allow the bullies and abusers the last word on God’s Word. It will challenge some of us to revisit “speaking the truth in love,” but these are our Father’s Words. We must reclaim them from the bullies.

Of course, we can fairly represent love and truth simultaneously. Parents do it with children every day. Spouses do it. Church leaders, doctors, friends, and others all speak truth and communicate love, sometimes in the same breath.

Love is our high calling. The highest. We need to be trained and transformed by love, so that love is our first language, our initial reflex, and our emotional default setting. We need to foster loving hearts, if we want that love to influence our words.

(Excerpted from The Art of Hard Conversations, Lori Stanley Roeleveld, February 2019 by permission Kregel Publications)

Giveaway: To enter to win The Art of Hard Conversations, leave a comment telling about someone who has spoken the truth to you in love OR just say “Love covers a multitude of sins!”

 

Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

 

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How to Listen to that Difficult Person in Your Life

At no additional cost to you, there are affiliate links in this post to help defray the cost of website maintenance. Click here for full disclosure.

When my friend Rachel Britton, author of Tough to Love: How to Find Peace in Difficult Relationships sent me this post for you, I was delighted. Rachel gives us such a powerful but counter-intuitive way to listen when we don’t like what we’re hearing. Make sure to read to the end for a giveaway of her book. Please welcome Rachel!

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If you’re like me, you don’t want to listen to a difficult person in your life. 

I find myself groaning about that person giving their point of view in the meeting. I avoid making eye contact, and especially conversation, with the relative sitting across from me at the dinner table. Or, I try to walk past the woman at church pretending I haven’t seen her. At the most I force a smile and a “how are you,” which doesn’t look like it’s coming through clenched teeth.

I have to say, it’s exhausting dealing with my emotions when I don’t want to listen. Unfortunately, often, we have little choice. The most difficult people are usually closest to us.

So, how do we listen without getting worn out? It is important to take the time and let our work colleagues, family members, or sisters at church have their say. But, there’s another lesson in how we listen that can be learned, and that is realizing it’s what we listen to that can trip us up.

We need to be aware of how we allow the words we hear to affect us.

I can pick up on one small phrase or word said to me, which blows up in my head. Before I know it, I’m wrestling with accusations not actually spoken to me.

“I’ll send you the details again,” she said innocently. Yet, I didn’t just hear “again.” I heard:  “You’re so disorganized and unprofessional.” “You’ve made me do extra work.“ “You’re such a loser.” “Can’t you get your act together?”

Unfortunately, my internal monologue didn’t stop there. I repeated it to my husband when he walked through the door after a long day of meetings. I’m chopping carrots like I’m using an axe and fifteen minutes later I could see from his shoulders this was not the way to unwind for the day.

So, how do we listen without finding ourselves blowing everything out of proportion, complaining about our friend to someone else, and learning to let go of words that hurt?

Thankfully we have a heavenly Father who we can talk to, who listens to what we have to say,  and who promises to bring peace into the situation. Not only that, we can trust him to speak on our behalf.

The Bible, in Philippians 4, encourages us to take our anxiety about anything and everything, including our frustration over words spoken to us, to God in prayer.

And in Psalm 109 we have an example of David turning to God about the people who “opened their mouths against me.” They lied, said hateful words, and made accusations. David didn’t hold back in his anger. “May his children be wandering beggars,” he said about his enemy! We can be like David and let it all out to God. After all, God knows everything we’re thinking, feeling, and feel like saying and doing to the other person.

Praying is a safe place to talk about that difficult person. What we say doesn’t go any further with God. We can burden him with our woes, instead of burdening those we love. And God, who lives in relationship, fully understands relationships both perfect and imperfect.

So, prayer isn’t telling God what’s new. Prayer is letting God give us a new perspective, and that includes a new perspective on the words we hear.

Just like David, after his outpouring, we have to ask God for his help. He says: “Lord, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” We need to ask God for help to get over the words we’ve heard that hurt us, and a fresh view on the words we think we’ve heard.

Prayer is not just pouring out our pain and frustrations, it is allowing God to pour in His peace.

We have to trust God. We must give everything over to God and believe He will deal fairly with what has been said to us, because He cares for us. And like in Psalm 109, if there has been any wrongdoing said against us, God is just. Like David, we can ask God to “not remain silent” on the matter.

As my finger hovered over the keyboard waiting to tap out an angry reply, I let my thoughts travel upwards. “Lord…”

It’s not easy to let go of what’s been said to us and leave it in God’s hands, but it’s better than taking the matter into our own hands.

Unhealthy reactions are likely to lead to unhealthy actions. With God, we can let go and move on. And, we’ll feel so much better for it. We’ll be freed from those exhausting emotions.

Next time you listen and words trip you up, catch your reactions before they go too far. Take them to God, pour out your pain, and ask for His perspective and peace. It may take more than one time, but persevere in prayer.

Giveaway: How do you think prayer can change your hard-to-listen-to conversations? Leave your comment for a chance to win a copy of Rachel’s excellent book, Tough to Love: How to Find Peace in Difficult Relationships.

 

Rachel is a British-born, author, blogger, and speaker. She helps women pray naturally and become comfortable and confident in their conversation with God. Raised on the east coast of England, Rachel moved to New England. She now lives in New York City with her husband. They have three young adult children. Connect with Rachel at rachelbritton.com

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The Dance Between Speaking and Listening

Wow. Your response to the series on listening has been amazing. I’ve read every comment, email, and social media post that you’ve sent, and I’m encouraged. We’re in this together!

But I’m certainly new to this, and I’m learning from so many others. In the upcoming weeks, I’m going to let you listen (see how I did that?) to some other voices with more experience. These are friends that I trust with additional resources for our growth as we learn to listen.

There will be lots of new thoughts and giveaways too, so make sure to read to the end and comment to enter!

Today, I’d like you to welcome my sweet friend and valued agent, Blythe Daniel, and her mother/co-author, Helen McIntosh. Today’s post is an excerpt from their wonderful book, Mended: Restoring the Heart of Mothers & Daughters.

(At no additional cost to you, this post contains affiliate links that help maintain the site. Click here for my full disclosure.)

There’s a dance between mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, husbands and wives. Do you bite your lip to listen or go for it? Sometimes we don’t know what to say to each other when there have been hurt feelings, time or space, or something more serious between you. What do you say exactly?

Part of being wise is knowing when to speak. Silence can be golden, but not if we are mute at the wrong time. We don’t want to talk too much, but we don’t want to seem uncaring by our silence. You have probably seen wonderful dramatizations of people consoling one another without words, and it’s beautiful.  But at the right time, speak some words, and I am suggesting a very gentle sentence or two for starters. Even if you have been verbally put down or assaulted, you will want to regain your confidence to voice your thoughts by even speaking just a few appropriate sentences. Especially after a grievous loss or change, it’s helpful for the other one to say, “I am so sorry for what you are walking through. I don’t know what to say but I hurt for you/with you.” Another really good thing to say when you don’t know what to say is, “How do you see me helping you? What do you need that I can do for you?”

You may have just winced at that question. Do something for someone whom you feel awkward around because of the issues surrounding you, or for someone who perhaps doesn’t seem like she even wants you to bring up a conversation with her? Remember, your job is to ask. To initiate conversation. If she can’t accept your help, then you have at least asked. You can’t force yourself in, but you can offer. It may be the opening thread that helps tie your relationship together at some point down the road that you can’t see right now.

Have you prayed about the timing of your message? Often, right at the onset of pain, it’s hard to hear another person and you can mistakenly turn them away because you are really only thinking of yourself and your situation at the time. You might ask yourself, “Is my mother or daughter ready for me to have this conversation with her? Is it more about me wanting to get off my chest, or do I sense this would be helpful for her right now?” Make sure your need to talk isn’t more important than your mother’s or daughter’s need to hear it. It needs to be equally helpful and timely for both of you.

You will want to also pray for the hearer of your words, and for God to consecrate and bless your time. Your ability to sense how the conversation is going is a big part of talking and inviting yourself into the other’s life in that moment. You may come prepared to ask one thing, but have other words prepared so that you don’t feel at a loss for words and then resort to frustration or anger. You’ll want to pray before and after your conversation so that what you discuss is sealed and affirmed under the covering of the Lord Jesus and so that neither of you can deny His power in your conversation when doubt may want to creep in after your exchanges.

A great skill for families is listening well to one another. Hearing one another and hearing from God helps us replay to our loved ones in a wise and peaceful way. We need to be excellent listeners to words and hearts, and hearing from God for our replay is the greatest gift we can receive and the fruit we cultivate to offer others. God has encouraged us to listen well to others and listen to Him as he leads our hearts to respond.

From Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters, by Blythe Daniel and Dr. Helen McIntosh, 2019, Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers. Copyright 2019 by Blythe Daniel and Dr. Helen McIntosh.

Giveaway: Leave a comment telling one way listening has helped you OR one tip recommended by Blythe and Helen that you’ll try. Your comment will enter you in a random drawing for a copy of their new book, Mended: Restoring the Heart of Mothers & Daughters.

Blythe Daniel is a literary agent and marketer with 20 plus years of experience in publishing. She has written for Christian Retailing and Focus on the Family, and she links bloggers with readers through BlogAbout. The daughter of Dr. Helen McIntosh, she lives in Colorado with her husband and three children.

Dr. Helen McIntosh (EdD, Counseling Psychology) is a counselor, speaker, educator, and author of Messages to Myself and Eric, Jose & The Peace Rug®. Her work has appeared in Guideposts, ParentLife, and HomeLife magazines. She resides in Georgia with her husband Jim. They have two children and five grandchildren. For more information, visit www.ourmendedhearts.com

 

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How to Level Up Instead of Powering Down

At no additional expense to you, there are affiliate links included in this post to help defray the cost of website maintenance. Click here for my disclosure.

Also, hang on to the end for a giveaway!

Do your kids play video games? If so, you may know about the concept of powering up. In my devotion today “The Unexpected Power of Kindergarten Truths,” I’ve explained how this video game idea has applied to my spiritual life, and I encourage you to read there before reading on!

When God sends us back to Kindergarten to relearn a previously-experienced lesson in a deeper way, we have two options:

  1. We can submit to leveling up OR
  2. We can power down, quitting in discouragement and defeat.

The #2 way of dealing is often my default. In the past, I’ve seen going back to Kindergarten as a bad thing. A failure. A demotion.

But we don’t have to respond by quitting. If we’ll embrace an old lesson in a new way by leveling up, then we’ll find ourselves closer to God and with a higher view. Here are two steps that can lead us to leveling up instead of powering down:

Pray for Humility

When I taught elementary school, my most prized students were the kids who were teachable. They were the children who didn’t resist my instruction but dove eagerly into anything that I gave them. It was a delight to teach those kinds of learners!

For me, the main obstacle to taking what seems to be a step back is my pride. I’ve resisted returning to lessons on love and belief and prayer because I thought I should be past that. While it’s true that we’re called to maturity, I don’t think we’ll ever be “past” those foundational and essential pieces of our walk with Jesus. So instead of resisting, I’m learning to pray for humility and a willing attitude. I want God to delight in me as a student of His ways!

Dive Deeper Into the Basic

Instead of seeing an old topic as old hat, it’s helpful to get a new perspective. That’s one of the reasons I like to revisit a familiar idea with a fresh set of eyes. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Always, always, always start with the Bible, but try using a modern translation of the Bible like The Message beside the one you usually read. I’m cautious about translations that aren’t word-by-word translations, but I don’t believe they’re harmful if we use them alongside others for accuracy. God often uses The Message to wake up my brain and see His Word in a fresh way. I’ll do a word study of the topic God is reteaching and follow it through in several translations. The cool version that I linked has the NIV translation side by side with The Message.
  • Use a devotional Bible to read other’s experiences with God in combination with Scripture. I’m clearly prejudiced, by my favorite is the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible that contains devotions written by the Proverbs 31 Ministries team. (It comes in an awesome compact size too!)
  • Read books by others who have studied your topic. When I got sent back to learn about prayer, I loved the book Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children which taught me to pray in my current season of life. If your perfectionism is damaging your relationships again, my book Breaking Up with Perfect might be just the perspective that God uses to bring renewed freedom.

When we embrace leveling up instead of powering down, there are rich rewards!

Giveaway:

I’m beyond excited to announce that my new book Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not. Love Who You Are. Live Your One Life Well, co-authored with my dear friend Cheri Gregory, is coming out on June 4th. It’s available for pre-sale now, but the freebies aren’t quite ready yet. If you pre-order now, be sure to hang on to your receipt so that you can receive them later.

To enter to win this beautiful necklace, simply say “I’m ready to EXHALE!” or tell me how leveling up has been powerful in your life.

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One Powerful Truth to Learn About Listening

Welcome to all who are visiting from my devotion “The Anatomy of a Tender Heart and a Strong Voice”! Thank you so much for coming to by today. I hope that you’ll “sit a spell,” as we southerners say and even consider joining our community as we cultivate tender hearts and strong voices through this process:

Listen. –> Feel. –> Do. –> Speak.

You can click here for more information about how to do that.

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Listening has never been my strong suit.

In fact, as a confirmed word-girl, I’ve always thought that my words were more important than my silence. Working on my words was what I was always doing, even while you were talking. I might have looked like I was listening, but well… not so much. I was really formulating the next thing I was going to say.

My heart was in the right place.

After all, our Creator spoke everything into existence with His words. He expresses Truth to us in the Word through Scripture. In John 1, Jesus Himself is called The Word.

Words really are important.

But my problem is that I’ve often mistaken my words for His truth instead of what they are, my opinion (which I wrote about here). I also made this leap:

Listening = Agreeing

If I listened without responding with “truth,” I thought I wasn’t being a good Christian. I thought that not setting you straight was falling short. But I was wrong.

Listening ≠ Agreeing

I’m finding that listening doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree. I just means that I’m listening. Period. I know this might be a “No Duh” moment for you, but it’s been HUGE for me.

Let’s take the woman from my devotion that attacked me on FB as an example. My first response felt both true and justified to me. She called me a tool of the devil after all. No Christian like to be called a tool of the devil, and I’m no exception. Also, that’s not true about me (most days)! So I set her straight with “truth”/facts, a dose of Scripture and a name of my own. “You’re just a bully!”

But what if I would have just listened? What could I have learned? What if I had been curious not furious, as my friend Cheri says, asking questions to try to understand instead of reacting with more hurtful words?

Maybe I could I helped a hurt. Maybe I could have heard a perspective that softened my heart toward her. Maybe I could have even learned something that shifted my own dearly held perspective a little. Maybe none of that would have happened, but I would have done something else that’s still important.

By listening, I could have changed the whole dynamic. Even if I never agreed with her point of view, I could have brought the most powerful force into our interaction. A force that unites instead of dividing even when people disagree. Because here’s the truth I’m learning:

Listening ≠ Agreeing

Listening = Love

I understand that there’s a time to speak God’s truth, Scripture (not the same as our opinion or political rhetoric or a dearly held philosophy, remember?), into conversations, but the right time might be in the second conversation or the third or the fourth. In the meantime, as I listen in love, I begin to understand. I build compassion. I earn the right to speak.

How do we begin to cultivate tender hearts? First we learn to listen. Here’s the truth we’ll tuck away:

In the coming weeks, I’ve got some amazing guest posts coming up including how to listen and talk to that difficult person in your life and how to handle a conversation when it turns combative. If you’re not already a subscriber, make sure to click here and enter your email so that you don’t miss a minute.

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The Trouble with Touting Our Truth

It was an awkward moment.

Minutes before, my son’s friend was being nasty about his sunglasses, insulting his funky taste. When I encouraged words laced with the fruit of the Spirit, I got a sassy reply.

“Truth is one of the fruits of the Spirit.”

Because I wanted to diffuse the tense atmosphere, I just moved on, but I’ve thought about that response many times since.

If I’m honest, I often have a similar retort to anyone who confronts me or disagrees with me. I don’t always say it out loud, but these are the kinds of responses I have (often accompanied by an internal eye-roll).

“I’m just telling it like it is.”

“You shouldn’t get mad at me for telling the truth.”

There are two problems with those replies and the one my son’s friend gave that day:

  1. The statement my son’s friend gave about his glasses (and the ones I often hand out) elevated his opinion to the place of truth. 
  2. Truth actually isn’t in that list of the fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5: 22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

As I’m learning to listen, I need to apply the corollary truths from this story.

Don’t Elevate Your Opinion to His Truth

I’m very careful about how I use the word “truth” these days because it’s a powerful word. There’s telling the truth which is the opposite of telling a lie. There’s truth based on data and evidence. And then there’s Truth with a capital “t”– God’s truth which is only found in Scripture.

I find that I easily deceive myself, touting my “truths” (otherwise known as opinions) rather than standing on God’s Truth. I confessed it first, so now I’ll just say it… Sisters, that’s a dangerous place to be.

Years ago, my friend Anne Forbis shared a conversation she had with God. In it, He said to her, “Anne, your opinion blocks my revelation.”

Mercy.

Do you hear it with your name inserted? I do all the time. “Amy, your opinion blocks my revelation.”

In this stage of learning to listen, I’ve realized over and over again how my opinion– my “truths” that I cling to– also block my ability to listen. It’s not that truth isn’t important, it’s actually crucial. I just want to make sure that the truths I cling to are God’s Truths, not my own.

Apply the Fruit of the Spirit to Listening

Instead of giving into my overwhelming desire to insert my “truths” into conversations, I’m working to listen with love. With joy. With peace. With forbearance (or patience– which is important when I’m listening to things that I really, really disagree with)… you get the picture.

My opinions are limited to my knowledge, education and experience. Only clinging to God’s Truth while listening with an open heart expands my ability to hear and understand. This is a lesson that’s been a struggle, and I’m still learning.

It’s not that my opinions or points of view are meaningless. They’re helpful sometimes. But most times they just get in the way, and they’re better left unsaid. God’s Truths are the ones I’d rather stand on.

How do you tell the difference between your opinion and truth?

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How to Listen If You Don’t Want People to Talk

Several weeks ago,  I was working on a project, and I craved some feedback. My husband Barry is always a willing victim participant, so I ran my questions by him. And then I pretended to listen.

“I need your marketing brain. Which of these sentence do you think works better?” I queried. “Are there any words you have trouble with? If there are, what would you substitute?”

Barry generously put his task aside and began to share his ideas with me. Sadly, he didn’t rubber stamp my original idea. He came up with other thoughts instead, and they didn’t suit me. Not at all.

So one-by-one, as he offered the suggestions I had asked for, I shot them down, revealing that I wasn’t really listening at all. I was critiquing.

“I don’t think women will identify with that.”

“Hmmm… that word’s overused.”

“That won’t work.”

Suddenly, Barry grew silent, and I looked up into his handsome face. At the beginning of this little exercise, he had a look of thoughtfulness and anticipation. Now he looked discouraged and totally over it.

I quickly apologized, asked for his forgiveness, and told him that I’d shut up and truly listen if he’d keep suggesting. Another lesson about listening learned.

 

Let me quickly say that I’m not talking about Scriptural truth, although even that should often be held until the right time. I’m referring to our own dearly loved opinions and preferences. In my situation with Barry, there wasn’t one right way to write my sentence. There were multiple ways to do it that will engage others, but I had a tightly gripped thought on what one way would work. (Ahem. Can anyone say “perfectionist in process?”)

Have you ever found yourself in that circumstance? Losing out on something you could have gained by listening because you didn’t hold back your critique? That’s the way to listen if we don’t want people to talk, but here are four lessons about how to listen if we do:

Ask questions without preconceptions. 

I’ve been working on asking great questions instead of monologuing my own thoughts, and it’s been a revelation! Asking a question is a fabulous way to learn something new or to gain a new perspective. People are actually surprised when you ask them questions, inviting them to talk about themselves or their ideas.

When I ask a question that requires feedback, I’m learning to put my preconceptions aside. My preconceptions strengthen the thought that there is only one way and weakens my ability to receive from someone else. If I really want to connect and learn, my “one right way” of thinking has to go.

Create space for something new.

By shooting down Barry’s ideas one by one, I both discouraged him (and annoyed him I’m sure!), and I blocked the flow of his creativity. I know that my best ideas often come at the end of 10 bad ones, but I hadn’t given him the same benefit of the doubt.

Once I’ve asked the question, I have to work really, really hard to not talk. Silence is the needed space where someone else can plant a new thought or idea.

Let me speak to extroverts for a minute. Silence is immensely uncomfortable for us. I get it, but it’s necessary if we’re to receive the benefits of listening. Years ago, I became friends with an amazing woman who’s an introvert. I realized that my need to fill the spaces kept me from connecting with her. When I finally allowed some silence into our conversations, I reaped a huge reward! Every word she spoke was worth waiting for, but her personality required some space to speak. She wasn’t going to shove her way into my stream. 🙂

Focus your thoughts.

As I’ve said, I may have seemed like a good listener for a long time, but I wasn’t. Even when I wasn’t talking, I wasn’t really listening. I was only processing what you were saying to the extent that I could think of the next thing I wanted to say!

The other piece of listening that I’m having to work on with effort and intention is focusing my thoughts on what’s being said. Being present. Being truly attentive.

Be grateful.

It’s truly a gift when others are willing to share their time with us, and it’s a rare reward when people share their thoughts with vulnerability. Even when I don’t agree (much more on that to come), I can be grateful for what that person has given to me.

When Barry shared his ideas with me weeks ago, he gave me some of himself and his extraordinary gifts. I’m incredibly thankful that God showed me the effect my interruptions were having so that he was willing to continue.

How about you? Have you found yourself displaying the bad habits I did? How have you learned to listen better?

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I’d love to meet you face to face!

This spring I’m looking forward to traveling to lots of places to speak, and I’d love to see you there. Here are the locations and links more information about open events:

February 21                Columbia, MO               Columbia Christian Women                              [email protected]

February 22-23         Tuscaloosa, Al               Church at Tuscaloosa          https://churchattuscaloosa.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/193230

March 1-2                    Pawleys Island, SC       Kings Cross Church             https://kingscross.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/190476

March 23                      Amsterdam, NY            Perth Bible Church                                                  https://perthbible.church/

April 5-6                        Lake Geneva, WI          Northbridge Church            https://northbridgechurch.ccbchurch.com/

I’d love to speak at your event too! Click here to learn more.

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God’s Path to Tender Hearts and Strong Voices

Gracious.

It’s seems like it’s been forever since we’ve just done life here together on the blog. Between the holidays, a blogging break and the devo post last week, it’s been a hodge podge. Thanks for hanging in there with me. You’re a treasure. Truly.

But I’m ready and excited to settle back down into our purpose to develop:

Tender hearts. Strong voices.

We’ve got lots of newcomers, and I’m thrilled to have you here. Welcome! If you’re new and wanting to get a taste of where we’re going, I invite you to watch the videos below to get a clear idea of our direction.

“Will you go a new direction with me?”

“Unity and Love: Some rules of engagement”

If you’ve been here a long time, I’m so grateful! Either way, I know I need a chance to get back on course, and maybe you do too. God was so good last week to give me a clear, biblical picture of where He’s leading us.

I’ve never heard God audibly speak to me, but He’s always speaking. One of the ways I recognize His voice is through repetition. I’m slow, so I may miss it the first time. I’m not completely dense, though. I usually catch it the second time around.

This week, I studied Acts 2:41-47 with my friends at New Providence church, and then our pastor preached on the same passage at Apex Baptist on Sunday. Hello, God!

I’m going to be processing the lessons in that passage for a long time, but I felt compelled to review all of Acts 2 today. You may want to get your Bible and read it too. As I was reading, our process leapt off the page at me!

Listen

Starting in verse 14, Peter stood up to address the crowd, and they listened. Led by the Holy Spirit, using God’s Word from the Old Testament and explaining his eye-witness account of Jesus’ life, Peter explained the Gospel. Do you see what’s happening there? All three persons of the Trinity– God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit– are playing a part in speaking through Peter. He has been and is actively listening as he speaks.

As Peter speaks truth, the crowd is listening.

Feel

Peter wraps up his message of the Gospel, and verse 37 tells us, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart….” The people listened to the message given by the Holy Spirit through Peter, and they felt conviction. Sorrow. Pain.

It was the appropriate and Holy-Spirit-given response to what they had heard.

Do

But the people didn’t just feel and then leave. They felt and responded with a question, “‘Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2: 37b). They knew that listening wasn’t enough. Even being moved wasn’t enough. Now it was time to act.

And act they did, thus the title of the book of the Bible! They turned to Christ for forgiveness and were baptized, but they didn’t stop there. They started learning and meeting and sharing and giving and breaking bread together. We’ll focus much longer on the end of the chapter when I write about our third step, “DO.”

Speak

We know that these new Jesus followers didn’t limit to do-ing. They also began speaking of Jesus, sharing the Gospel. As a result, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2: 47b) They told others who listened and believed, and so the process was repeated over and over. Through the centuries. Until there was you and me.

Stunning.

I was amazed and strengthened to see that the process I outlined before Christmas really is a God-idea, not just an Amy-idea. It’s my heart’s desire to share God-ideas with you because only those are transforming and eternal.

Are we all on the same page again and ready to move forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Next week I’ll start writing about “Listening to Others” but “Listening to God” always, always comes first and is the foundation. If you missed any of the posts from before Christmas in the “Listening to God” series, this is your chance to catch up or review. Next week, we’ll hit the ground running.

To Be Successful Always Refer to Rule #1

How to Know for Sure that Scripture is Trustworthy

How to Know for Sure that YOU Can Find the Truth in Scripture

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