At a recent staff meeting, I asked my associate pastors what would be the greatest compliment that someone could give them. After hearing some excellent feedback, I told them that I heard my sister say of a person some years ago, "That person was the best listener I have ever talked to."
If relationships are at all important to us, then it is critical that we be good listeners. Are you? Am I? Someone said that good leaders are good listeners and great leaders are great listeners. The Bible says in James chapter one that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Good counsel -- too bad we all don't heed it better.
I like to talk to God; and to my wife; and to my kids and grandkids. Do I like to listen to them as well. God wants my attention and so does my wife and the other important people in my life. Stephen Covey in "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" puts it this way: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Wow! Did you get that?
I guess we need to be less concerned with whether people hear and understand us than we are with whether we hear and understand them. We need to listen more and talk less. I think since God created us with two ears and one mouth, it should tell us something.
Here are some barriers that keep us from being effective listeners: (They are not original by any means.) No. 1 being preoccupied and not listening. Parents do this a lot with their kids. God forgive me for all the many times I tuned my kids out thinking it wasn't as important as my immediate preoccupation. No 2 Being so interested in what I have to say that I listen mainly to find an opening to get the floor. No 3 Formulating and listening to my own rebuttal to what the speaker is saying.
No 4 Listening to my own personal beliefs about what is being said. No 5 Evaluating and making judgments about the speaker or the message. And finally No 6 Not asking for clarification when you know that you do not understand.
Up North Wisdom says that I need to follow my own teachings that I gave regularly to the teens when I was the Youth Pastor. That is: to listen up, lighten up and shut up. Their language. You get the message. And so do I. And when it comes to our relationship with God, let's be like young Samuel when he said, "Speak Lord; your servant is listening." Blessings!
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