I'm a teacher and a preacher which means I do a lot of talking...a lot of talking. In fact with all the talking I do, and with how hard I work at getting better at it, I sometimes become concerned that I'll forget to work on something equally important, listening.
I've seen it happen, all too often...people so used to talking to others that they stop listening to what others have to say.
When I was a kid I remember someone calling it fls, flapping lips syndrome.
In my opinion, it is deadly.
It definitely is a friendship killer. I mean for one thing, if I ever get to the point where I'm the one always doing the talking and thinking everyone else is enjoying it, I'll know I'm just fooling myself because I know me and I'm not all that interesting.
But more seriously, it makes it difficult for me to learn. If I don't listen to others, it is an indication of pride, and if I'm proud that tells me I don't fear God, at least not enough...and if I don't fear God, Solomon tells me I don't even have the beginning of knowledge.
Plus, it makes it difficult for others to learn. Teaching isn't just talking about a subject, it's talking about a subject to people. If I don't listen, I don't know where the people I am teaching are at, and if I don't know where the people I am teaching are at, I'm going to have a very hard time doing much teaching.
Besides, it is a terrible model. One of the things I most want to display as a teacher is the love of Christ, and if I am always talking and rarely listening, I'm definitely not doing that.
If I'm going to be an effective teacher I know for sure I can't just talk, I've got to listen. The problem is, listening is hard work.
It requires some serious dying to self.
For one, you have to die to pride.
For another, you need to die to selfishness.
It means I have to admit that perhaps I don't know it all, and that even if I do know an awful lot about a subject, there's more for me to hear or maybe I need to hear it again.
It means I need to actually be interested in others. I have to work on wanting to know what's going on in their life. I have to care so much about them that I allow them to talk to me in their own style, not getting upset that they use more details than I do or maybe less. I need to let them be interested in what they are interested in, and try to be interested in it at least while they are talking about it, maybe not because it fascinates me so much, but instead because I love them.
If we're going to be good listeners we need to work at focusing.
We need to grab our mind and take control, forcing ourselves to pay attention to what the other person is saying.
If we're going to be good listeners we need to ask questions.
We need to be very careful that we don't assume we understand, but care enough about the other person to work at really understanding what they are saying to us.
If we're going to be good listeners we need to be patient.
We need to be willing to wait to hear what is really going on in the other person's life.
If we're going to be good listeners we need to think long and hard about all the listening God does to us. I've got to believe if I were God I would get bored sometimes by all the things I have to say to him. I've got to believe there would be times I would be distracted. But when I look to Scripture, I find it telling me God's not. He actually wants me to talk to Him, He wants to listen, and He cares about the smallest, most minute details in my life.
If God's willing to listen to me like that, who am I kidding if I ever think I'm too busy or important to stop and really listen to others?