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. It 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.