When a person is in grief, pain, or some kind of crisis, they turn to someone they can share it with. At times like these your presence and keen listening can make all the difference to the person in pain. Oftentimes, people are so concerned with what they are contributing to a conversation that they forget one important requirement for any conversation – the ability to listen carefully. This is something that both Christians and non-Christians can agree on. Knowing how to listen is crucial in relationships.
More importantly, effective listening is the only way we can fulfill one of the commandments of Christ, which is to “Love thy neighbor as thyself (Matthew 22:39). Listening and making your best effort to understand are important ingredients in love. In addition, careful listening also helps us increase our faith and grow in our understanding of God.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” — Romans 10:17
But listening takes effort. It doesn’t come easy. You are not going to learn the art of listening overnight. Developing a keen sense of listening gets better with time, but you will have to make an effort and start somewhere. Here we are going to share with you some tips from the Bible that apply to both the religious and non-religious alike, so even if you are not a God, Jesus, or church person, you can benefit from this article.
Patience is the first and most important tip to better listening. Many times a person lends an ear and presumes to know what the other person is about to say. This assumption is an impatient and inattentive way to approach listening to another. Sometimes we are more about what we’re going to say next than trying to understand what is being communicated.
Rather than formulating a response in your mind while the person is speaking, try to be patient and listen closely to what is being said. Suspend your preconceptions, judgments, and assumptions for a moment, and pay careful attention to the words, voice inflections, and mannerisms of the other person. How something is being communicated is just as important as what is being said.
It is an unfortunate fact that many of us are often too pre-occupied with ourselves while we are listening, which hinders our listening abilities. Rather, actively concentrate and focus on what the other person is saying.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV
Listening is an Act of Love
Good listening goes hand-in-hand with the teachings of Jesus. In this way, active listening is an act of love that flows from a humble heart that counts the needs as others as more important than their own (Philippians 2:2). Love looks not to its own selfish interests. It is not self-seeking. It doesn’t try to impress or puff-up, but instead carefully considers the needs and interests of others.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” — Philippians 2:5-11 NIV
Listening Allows Perceptive Questions
You can practice listening by using open-ended questions instead of yes-no questions. This promotes perspective and helps you get to the heart of the matter that’s concerning the person. Rarely does a person begin with what’s really bothering them. Good listening allows you to peel away the layers and probe beneath the surface to find what the speaker is trying to share. Through careful and genuine questions, you can look for non-verbal cues rather than interrogating the speaker.
“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” — Proverbs 20:5
Attentive Listening is Good Ministry
There will be times when the most important ministry we can provide is to square our shoulders to some hurting person who needs us to bear and hear their pain. In those times, uncross your arms, make eye contact, and lean in.
Attentive listening is a ministry because it helps diffuse the emotions that may be part of the problem. Sometimes, all a hurting person needs is to talk something through.
I remember a time when a friend called and requested some time to see me. I sensed his heart was deeply troubled. As he began to share, I listened carefully and said basically nothing. I nodded from time to time and even cried with him a couple of times. His pain was off the charts. At the end of our time together, I simply prayed for him and his family. He thanked me for such an engaging conversation and for helping him with his problem. All I did was listen. He did all the talking. But that’s exactly what he needed to think things through.
Listening is an important but often neglected ministry.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” – James 1:19 NIV
Listening Enables You to Speak Well
When the time comes to speak, good listening will allow you to minister words of wisdom and grace that will counsel the downtrodden. Only a fool will be ready to give an answer before hearing the matter. Refuse to allow yourself to formulate a response to all the speaker is saying until you’ve heard the whole story. Then, pray. Ask God to give you the words to speak – encouraging words that will edify, strengthen, and give hope.
I usually pray something like, “God, my words will not help my friend very much, but your words bring life and hope when none remains. God, your words created the heavens and the earth. Please, Lord, speak through me and use me to help my brother.”
Oftentimes, the words that follow amaze me more than anyone else. Thoughts will crystalize and verbalize that I was not even thinking about and Scripture, O’ my! Scripture, will come forth that I haven’t read in a long time. Yield yourself to the Holy Spirit, and He will speak through you with authority when the time comes.
“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” –Proverbs 18:13 NIV
Good listening is important for a Christian because the person who can no longer listen to their brother will soon be unable to listen to God, which is never a good thing! Effective listening may be the greatest grace you can ever provide another person. It is a mark of a true follower of Jesus. It is a characteristic of Christ. It fosters relationships, and it builds friendships. Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”