Thursday, March 20, 2014
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We have a family doctor I totally trust. I'm a very blessed guy. I mean, I've had one over the years wherever I've lived. But I can't say that I look for opportunities to go see him. If I do, I've got 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. He's kind of like a medical Sherlock. I tell him where it hurts, I tell him when it started, and I tell him how I got desperate enough to finally come to the doctor's office.
He then investigates my temperature, my blood pressure and checks out my vital signs. And I'm glad. I mean, can you imagine? What if the doctor walked into the exam room and before I could even open up my mouth, he points at me and goes, "Penicillin!" What? Wait a minute! 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 would trust his diagnosis? Do you think I would want to go there the next time I need 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, "To answer before listening - that is folly and shame." If you answer before you've listened, God says you should be ashamed of yourself. That certainly would be true if a doctor started answering before he listened, right? It's just as true of, say, parents who may be the number one disobeyers of this verse. Before we've even heard out our son or daughter, we're already talking. "Penicillin!" We haven't even heard what they're feeling; we haven't heard where they're hurting. Oh, but we've got the answer.
Is it any wonder that they may not accept our diagnosis? What about a husband with a wife? Or a wife with her husband? Do you thoroughly listen before you start speaking? Or do you jump right in; sure that you know the rest of what they're going to say. Sure, you know the answer. This 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.
Now, 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..." Notice that comes first. Then it says, "...slow to speak." And then I would put this, "as a result." "...slow to become angry." If you're quick to listen and you're slow to speak, you're a lot less likely to become angry I think.
How are you doing on this? I know I've got some work to do. But I need to do that work to learn to listen more effectively. I suspect you do, too. Why? 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. So you'll probably miss where they really are when you keep talking, or when you jump in or interrupt. And your response probably won't even really fit where they're really 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? If you want them to feel they're important, like God thinks they are, then focus on them like they're the only person on this planet at the moment you're with them.
Our children, our spouse, our coworkers, our friends are carrying around this invisible sign that says, "Is what I say important? Do I really matter?" And listening to them; really hearing them is a gigantic, "Yes, you are! Yes, what you say is important." My doctor listens before he starts answering me, and I'm glad he does. I can trust what he says. I just wonder if the people in your world can say the same about you?