Take a Few Minutes to Understand

I had two recent encounters with people in the retail business and both left me with the same lesson.

One is a manager of a farm store that I frequent. He has been pretty short and seemingly disinterested lately when I talk to him and ask him about various product questions. Come to find out, he recently slipped on a boat dock, hit his head on the concrete and he passed out. On top of that, he was underwater and his eleven year old daughter couldn’t move him to safety. He told me, “I don’t know why or how I woke up, but I did.” This led to a discussion about God and His relationship with Jesus, so please pray for this to lead to his coming to Jesus.

Another example was this morning as I was at the cell phone store dealing with a phone issue. We had two bad experiences at previous stores, had been on customer service for a long time last night and this morning, and I finally go to another of the store locations to get help. The young lady who helped me was very quiet as she did her job. Not very personal at all. About 10 minutes into working on a new SIM card, she said, “I’m sorry I’m quiet. My 14 year old dog is at home dying and I can’t get my mind off it.” It led to a good discussion, and I told her our family can certainly understand.

Now, the reason I bring these two examples up is because it would be easy to make a snap judgment about these two people and say they were rude, or didn’t care. We could walk away telling everyone how we received poor customer service. But what is the backstory? What’s going on in their lives? Did we take any time to think or consider what else is going on in their lives that may lead them to behave this way?

It is just another reminder for me, and I hope it helps you. Don’t be so hasty to make a judgment about someone. We certainly don’t like it when others do it about us.

But Only In Expressing His Opinion

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

Solomon says a lot about fools in Proverbs, of course he says a lot about wise people as well in contrast to the fool. What is a fool in the Biblical sense? You might want to search the book of Proverbs for that word and see all Solomon has to say about it. If you boil it down to the essentials, it comes down to this: a fool does not listen to anyone but himself.

The above proverb teaches us that a fool’s delight is not in understanding wisdom or receiving instruction. He only wants to tell you what he thinks.

It is just another reminder that a big part of communication is listening. A huge component of learning is listening. But if I’m always talking, and I really love the sound of my own voice, how can I learn? How can I effectively communicate when I’m the only one talking?

My daughter Lindsay calls this a “versation,” not a “con-versation.” She’s right on the money about that.

Do you notice how some folks just dominate a conversation? They just don’t know when to take a breath and let someone else say something. For some reason, they don’t recognize social cues to see that someone else is trying to talk. A person may be done listening a long time ago, but do I recognize that, or do I just keep prattling on? We may be perfectly comfortable in teacher mode, but are we just as comfortable in “student” mode? Do we assume that we have the right approach and answers to each situation and that others are indebted to hear us talk about it?

It’s not that we want to call ourselves or others fools, but it would be good to take a cue from the proverb here and recognize that maybe we talk too much and listen far too little. And when we behave that way, we lack a true heart and desire for understanding. We won’t understand other people, because we really aren’t interested in it, and we won’t understand God’s truth, because we really are only in love with our opinions.

Ask more questions to engage others in conversation.

Be willing to let someone speak freely even if he or she has a different opinion or approach than you do.

Commit to hearing someone else’s story instead of being in such a hurry to tell your own.

Devote yourself to prayer for the Lord to give you courage and understanding to close your mouth and open your ears.

And they listened to him until this word

Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ” And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” (Acts 22:21-22).

The apostle Paul was defending himself in front of an angry Jewish mob in Jerusalem. Some had falsely accused him of taking Gentiles into the temple. If there was any word I would not have said in front of this angry Jewish mob, it would have been “Gentiles.” Especially in a sentence that claimed the Messiah Jesus had sent Paul to the Gentiles, whom the Jews considered as dogs. But the Holy Spirit in His eternal wisdom guided Paul to say these words, and you can see the reaction of the crowd. At this word, they shut down. No more listening, it’s time to kill Paul (Acts 22:23).

The problem here was not Paul’s choice of words or his timing or his presentation, it was the heart of the people hearing the message.

It brings up a point or two for consideration about listening.

How well do I listen?

Are there times when someone at work, school or home is trying to talk to me and they say “the wrong thing” or say it in “the wrong way” and I just shut down and refuse to hear anything else they say?

Would you and I be characterized as someone who truly lets someone freely talk to us without freaking out, overreacting and shutting down?

Paul said the “wrong word” to these Jews and it was over. They were not going to listen to another word. They were so mad they wanted him dead. Now you may not want someone dead, but you may kill a relationship because you refuse to listen. Think about it.

Nicodemus was one Jew who understood this principle, even though he was outnumbered in the Jewish council.

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:50-51)

Have you experienced these things? Are there people in your life that you cannot talk freely to because of how you know they will react? We don’t like that quality in others, understandably, but we don’t want to have that same characteristic. We as God’s men want to be the kind of men who will let others freely talk without shutting down, making quick judgments, or walking away, or over-talking, etc.

He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13)

It would help us to do more praying before and during conversations to ask the Lord to open our ears and muzzle our mouths.

Becoming a Better Listener

The thought for today is…How well do you listen to your children?

“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19)

Here are some basic indications of whether we need to work on our listening skills:

  1. If you are doing all the talking (i.e. lecturing), by definition you are not listening very much.
  2. When your children keep saying things like, “Dad, you’re not listening,” then you need to pay attention to this cue. They are probably right.
  3. If you keep interrupting, you are not taking time to let your son or daughter explain what’s on his or her mind.
  4. If you are thinking of what to say next, then you are really not waiting to hear their side of the story.
  5. If you assume what you heard instead of asking questions to clarify, then you become the judge without a fair trial.

“He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Keep in mind, dads, that our children first get an understanding of approaching the “Father in heaven” by their experience in approaching their father on earth.

  • Are you approachable?
  • Does your child feel like you are going to pounce on her verbally before she even finishes her sentence?

Today, take some time to reflect upon this. May the Lord give us the patience, humility, and approachable spirit that willingly listens to our children.