Tuesday, June 21, 2005

We've got a family doctor that I just totally trust. I'm a blessed guy, but I can't say that I look for opportunities to go see him, of course. But if I do have to go, I have a lot of reasons to trust him - not the least of which is, he asks me about my symptoms. So, I give him all the clues I can. I tell him where it hurts, when it started, how I got desperate enough to finally come to a doctor's office. Then he investigates my temperature and checks out my vital signs. And I'm glad. Can you imagine if he walked into the room where I was waiting for him and before I could even open my mouth, he pointed at me and barked, "Penicillin!" What? He's already headed for me with that needle, and I haven't even had a chance to tell him what's wrong. Do you think I'd trust his diagnosis? Do you think I'd go there the next time I needed attention?

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Ear Before The Mouth."

Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Proverbs 18:13. Here are the Lord's words: "He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame." If you answer before you've listened, you should be ashamed of yourself! That certainly would be true if a doctor started answering before he listened. It's just as true of parents who may be the number one disobeyers of this verse. Before we've heard out our son or daughter, we were already talking "Penicillin!" We haven't even heard what they're feeling. We haven't heard where they're hurting. Is it any wonder they may not accept our diagnosis or our cure?

And what about a husband with a wife; a wife with a husband. Do you thoroughly listen before you start speaking? Or do you jump right in, sure you know the rest, sure you know the answer? The "answering before listening" breakdown cripples so many relationships - a child who doesn't let mom or dad finish, employers and employees, friends, people you work with or people you serve the Lord with.

In James 1:19, God gives us His instructions for how our communication is supposed to be. Measure yours by this, "Be quick to listen (that comes first), slow to speak, and (as a result) slow to become angry." If you're quick to listen, you're slow to speak, and you're a lot less like to become angry, I think. How are you doing on that one? I know I've got some work to do, but I need to do that work to learn to listen more effectively. And I suspect you do, too.

Why? Well, being an active and patient listener is foundational to having a close relationship with anyone for two reasons. First, listening is the key to understanding a person. If you don't hear them out, you cannot understand. You've got to hear more than their words. You've got to listen long enough to hear their heart. If you don't, you'll probably miss where they're really at when you talk and your response probably won't even really fit where they're coming from. Just like a doctor who would diagnose before he heard out the patient. Secondly, listening is a primary way to make the person you're with feel important. I wonder how people feel after they've been around you.

People want to know that what they're saying matters - matters to you. If you want them to feel that way, if you want them to feel they're important - like God thinks they are - then focus on them like they are the only person on this planet at the moment that they're with you.

My doctor listens to me before he starts answering me. So I trust what he says. I hope the people in your world can say the same about you.