A Patient Listener
By Terry Gardner
Connie and I were on a long drive back from scenic Tennessee a few days ago and we were discussing patience. Specifically my patience and areas where I had improved but more importantly areas where I still have a ways to go (maybe a long ways). James wrote, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20. Patiently listening is a big challenge for me.
It takes patience to listen to others and to understand their point of view. Men often want to cut to the bottom line. Women (and some men too) like to give you all the details in living color! I am not patient in listening to the all the details and this is not an area in which I have improved much over the years, indeed, I may be advancing backwards!
Why don’t we listen to others? I don’t know about you but I’ll suggest some of the flaws I see in my own character in this area including (but not limited to) the following:
1. My time is more valuable than your time. At least that is in the back of my mind sometimes when I am not focused on listening. How do you feel when you are talking about a subject that is important to you but the person you are talking to is a million miles away? How many wives have had that experience with their husbands? If you want to be successful in life, learn to listen to each person as though they were the most important person in the world and you will go far.
2. I don’t value the knowledge of the person speaking. R. L. Whiteside was an early president of Abilene Christian University and one of the finest scholars of his generation. While living in Abilene he became acquainted with G. W. Harvey and wrote of him that, “he was, I think, the wisest uneducated man I ever knew. He was uneducated according to world standards, yet one day he said to me, ‘Ain’t it hard to get people to be as gentle, and considerate, and forbearing as they ought to be without their becoming so soft they ain’t no account.’ Think on that. Can you be gentle without being tame, considerate without being soft, forbearing without being tolerant of wrong? And someone remarked that it is hard to get people to be firm and steadfast in their attitude toward the truth without their becoming so dogmatic they are nuisances.” Every human being has something to teach us, if we will listen.
3. I’d rather talk than listen. Some years ago I asked an acquaintance of mine why he became a preacher. His reply was, “Well, I figured if I have to go to Church, I’d rather do the talking than the listening.” The Jews that James addressed were like my acquaintance. They wanted to talk when they needed to be listening. James wanted them to be swift to the listen to the Word of God. However, when we hear God clearly it may make us mad and we know that when Jesus spoke the Word of God to those of Nazareth, they were filled with wrath. (Luke 4: 28-29). Sometimes we talk when we should be listening because we don’t want to hear the truth, we don’t want to change. We need to remember that man’s anger, whether directed toward God or man, works not the righteousness of God.
I have sign at my office that says, “Be here now!” It is supposed to remind me to focus on the person I am talking to completely and totally! That in such conversations I should not be checking email, surfing the web or even daydreaming. Easy to say all this of course, but hard to do. Listening is a true of test of patience. How are you doing in this area of your walk with God?