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Listening

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In the popular country song, “Whatever You Say” by Martina McBride, the lyrics include a line that says, “I know you can hear me, but I don’t think you’re listening.” This verse is part of a song that talks about someone who just wants to be heard and listened to. These lines in the songlyrics, along with the others that follow, resonate with women of all types and ages. As women, isn’t that what we really want most of the time? To just be heard? We aren’t looking for an answer to our questions, a solution or a therapist.

How many times have we ourselves been told by others that we aren’t listening to them? Or how often do we say that to others? In my own experience I have found that things go more smoothly and we can find understanding with one another if we stop, and take the time to really listen. When we only hear half of a story or an explanation we can quickly jump to conclusions or cut other people off, not letting them fully explain themselves. Proverbs 18:13 describes the consequences of such actions: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.”

We may be surprised at how helpful we can be when we actually give others a chance to tell the “whole story,” and give them our full undivided attention when they speak—letting us into their lives to express what is on their heart. We are told, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). I have also heard it said, “If you keep quiet and let someone talk, they usually will!” A silent tongue can be a powerful tool. As Proverbs 17:27–28 says, “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.”

Oftentimes men, as helpful as they may want to be, would rather engage in problem solving, trying to find solutions or fix the problem, or not understand why we want to talk about the same thing over and over again. The popular book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman is a helpful tool for better understanding one another—for any type of relationship—and showing us how others respond to different methods of interaction.

Women get together to go shopping, to go out to lunch, or just to call their friends on the phone to talk—that is how we understand and relate to one another, and build closer bonds with our sisters in Christ. Whether it is explaining, venting, analyzing, supporting or something else, we are “talking it out.” We read in James 1:19 that we should be, “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” If we are seriously engaged in conversation, we should be hearing what the other person is saying. If you are thinking about how you are going to answer or what you are going to say while the other person is talking, then you may not be fully listening, because your attention is on something else.

Listening is an art. You must learn it, practice it, and grow in it. However, even when we feel like nobody is listening to us, really listening to us, we can be reminded that we have a friend that is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Christ is the perfect example of someone who quite often had nobody who would listen to Him. Throughout the course of His life as a man, when so many were often against Him, and not even His disciples could fully understand Him, He had His Father, who He knew He could count on. When life gets lonely and people get caught up in our fast-paced world, and we feel left alone, we can remember this and go to God with our thoughts and prayers.

A resource to become a better listener that I found useful was enrolling in the Living University class THL350: Principles of Counseling and Conflict Resolution. More than just learning about what to say, you will learn how to listen and relate to others for their common good, and for a positive outcome.