Read: Proverbs 18:2; Proverbs 18:13; Proverbs 25:12; James 1:19
I think it is becoming worse. At least, it appears to be that way to me. People talking over each other. Not only when they are angry, but during simple conversations concerning sports or clothing choices on the shopping channels. This thought popped into my head again while I was working on the computer. I had just copied some text to the clipboard, and I remembered a simple concept. If I want to copy another text to the clipboard, the first one will be gone. To store the second bit of information, I have to leave the first behind. Isn't it too bad that same idea doesn't carry over to conversations? Wouldn't it be better and more productive if only one person were putting his information on to the clipboard instead of several people vying to be heard with the result that no one truly is understood? Isn't it wearying and confusing when voices talk faster and louder jockeying for attention, and the Bible clearly says that God is not the author of confusion, 1 Corinthians 14:33.
Of course, we who belong to Jesus can't stop the world from talking over one another, but we can grow in our own interactions with others. We can become gracious listeners by being attentive when someone is putting his thoughts on to the clipboard. That can be challenging because there is a tendency in almost everyone to be thinking through our own response even while someone else is speaking. The Bible have much to teach us about listening and speaking. In Proverbs 18:2, we are warned that it is the fool who takes no interest in what someone else is saying. Instead, he merely wants to give His opinion. In Proverbs 18:13, the words are even stronger. Here we are told that one who gives an answer prior to listening, that is folly and shame.
Another problem with inattentive listening is that it is rude to not pay attention when someone is speaking. Although rudeness is an epidemic in the world, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that love is fleshed out by our not being rude. Talk about not being conformed to the world, Romans 12:2. Listening so that we understand doesn't mean that we are saying that we agree with the one who is speaking. We often won't. Especially since we believe in absolute truth and what is being said is often the polar opposite of what God says. In those cases, we can listen respectfully with the desire that we will have an opportunity to hold out truth. When we do have a chance to speak, it is important that we do so with humility and grace.
Many months ago, I was listening to a pastor's message. He was from California, but I don't recall his name. He began to make a point, but as he was doing so, he became very sarcastic. His words were mocking others who disagreed with him. I quickly stopped listening to the message. What a reminder for me to keep my words heavy in both truth and love. Yes, it is true that even loving and truthful words might be rejected by some hearers, but mocking and cynical words generally slam a door shut very quickly with little chance that the hearer will want to know more.
In Proverbs 25:12, we are reminded of the beauty of both wise words and someone who is willing to listen to them and take them to heart. That is the sweet result of being attentive listeners. Truth passed on and received.
If I may, let's go back to the idea of love and displaying it through our listening. I think that everyone would agree that there are people who are difficult to love. Including us at times. Our natural reaction is to turn our backs when people are hard to love. Then we remember God Who listens to us on our not so good days. Yes, He will correct what needs to be corrected in our lives, but He doesn't stop listening when we are less than loving. Since His love is poured out into our hearts, Romans 5:5, we can call on His power to produce that same listening love to others.
Yes, it is challenging to patiently listen to what we know to be false, but one thing we know. Most of us formerly believed what we now know was not true. There was probably someone who listened. There was one such person in my life. Her name was Pam, and she was one of my readers in college. She listened without rancor to my misconceptions about God, and she graciously planted seeds of truth. Thank You Lord for this long-ago friend. James 1:19 tells us to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Lord, help us to make James' words a part of each day.