"Listening is easy. I want to know what to say." Those are the words of a frustrated student exasperated with such a big emphasis on listening in care ministry.
Listening is not easy. Can you remember the last time someone really listened to you? It's a deep and memorable experience. It doesn't happen often. Most of us are so conscious of ourselves — our ideas, our answers, our experiences — that we are intent on telling about them as quickly as they come to mind.
Effective listening includes watching and paying close attention. Seeing the quivering chin, the reddening rims of the eyes, the glint of a tear, and thereby knowing the depth of feeling behind the words spoken. Included, of course, is reverently respecting what is shared.
Good listening includes the listener talking a little - enough to indicate awareness of what the other is saying or sharing, or experiencing emotionally. Pure silence can be confusing.
Relaxation and modifying our need to give answers and solve problems, is vital to listening. Later, when we have listened long enough, and deeply, we may be able to suggest, challenge, confront or offer some suggestion or an idea that is appropriate. By then we may see how shallow and superficial our earlier solutions or answers would have been. We may now move on, having done much by doing little. Taming the tongue is not a small accomplishment. It's a lot easier to say something than to be quiet; to say much, than to say little.
Christians tend toward being people with answers. The unkindest cuts of all may be rendered by Christians giving answers, solutions, remedies to other Christians before knowing what the questions are.
Proverbs 18:13 — "If one gives answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame." James 1:19 — "Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak."
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