The greatest communication tool God created is your ears.
We Clintons seem to have a million things in our home that distract us. We’re often blitzed with several conversations and things going on at the same time. Phones ring, text messages arrive, TV shows blare… and when we have a meal together, someone in the house wants SportsCenter on in the background! I’ll bet your life is the same.
With so much going on, miscommunication often occurs. One time, Tim stood in the foyer of a crowded restaurant watching the lunch crowd pour in—looking all over for me. He couldn’t find me. I was at a restaurant several miles away standing in the foyer looking for him. We had planned lunch the night before and discussed it again that morning. But somehow we blew it. Fortunately, a phone call solved the problem.
Miscommunicating lunch plans is a minor incident. But how often during serious discussions or heartfelt talks do couples completely ignore or half-listen to each other? Quite often. In fact, up to 90 percent of couples seeking counseling say communication and “talk” issues are at the root of their problems. In his book Margin, Richard Swenson notes that most couples spend an average of only four minutes a day in meaningful conversation. As a nation, we are distracted and disconnected. Yet nothing holds more potential for enriching intimacy and connectedness as that of effective and encouraging communication.
Scripture is pretty clear on this, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Also, it’s foolish and shameful to answer a matter before it’s fully heard and understood (Proverbs 18:13).
I’ve heard people say that God gave us two ears and only one mouth for a purpose: to listen twice as much as we talk. I bet if we paid attention, however, we’d discover that most of us talk at least twice as much (if not more) than we listen.
Communication involves both sending and receiving messages. Of these two, truly listening to the message you’re receiving may be the most important.
Listening is an essential part of building meaningful relationships. The better we are able to listen, the easier we can identify potential problems and areas of pain and miscommunication before they become problems.
In order to be heard, you’ve got to hear, even when your husband is cold or indifferent, your kids are yanking on your shirt, or your friend calls you seeking advice late at night when you’re tired. When others are talking, we need to be quick to turn around, pay attention, and listen.
I wonder about my own listening skills. Do I listen as closely as I can? Do I sometimes pretend I’m listening when I’m really not? Do I listen without really hearing? Do I make sure the environment is such that I can listen carefully when someone is baring their soul to me?
Have there been times when you felt as if someone wasn’t listening to you? Can you remember feeling hurt, frustrated, angry, and unimportant? Have you ever wondered how many times you’ve unknowingly made others feel the same way? Have you confused not talking for listening? I know I have. The truth is that occasionally, when my lips are closed and I should be listening, my ears are also closed or my mind is wandering. Not intentionally—it just happens. I get distracted.
I’m tired of distractions though. I want to listen the way God does. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). When others approach me, I want them to have the confidence that I hear them.
As I write, I realize this means turning off my cell phone and the TV occasionally. It means halting my multi-tasking and making eye contact with my children, even when dinner is late or the laundry needs folding. It means inviting a colleague to my office to talk privately rather than solving problems when passing in the hallway, even though that’s sometime easiest. It means arranging for one-on-one time with my spouse, my children, my mother, my sister, and my girlfriends, even though I feel crunched for time.
How do we relate with others in such a way as to find love?
• Be a good listener (James 1:19).
• Reflect and think through what is being spoken (Proverbs 15:23).
• Be sensitive to and respectful of your partner (Ephesians 4:31; 1 Peter 3:7).
• Speak the truth—but always in love (Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 3:9).
• Don’t fight or respond in anger (Ephesians 4:26, 31; Proverbs. 17:14; 18:7; 1 Peter 3:9).
• Confess and forgive when necessary (James 5:16; Proverbs 17:9; Ephesians. 4:32).
Other people aren’t the only ones I need to listen to. Above all, I must listen to God. I long to hear His voice in my heart. When I hear it, I’m more able to be sensitive to the needs of those around me and more able to listen and really hear what they are saying. When I hear His voice, I’m more confident about the decisions I must make and the actions I must take. When I hear His voice, I can rest easy, knowing I’m wrapped in His love (Jeremiah 31:3).
Please open the eyes of my heart Lord, so that I can clearly hear You. And as You do that, please open my ears so that I might truly hear those around me, for I know that the prescription for love (listening) is easy. Filling it is hard.
When you fill the listening prescription, you’ll feel connected to those who love you.