My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19
I have to work at being an active listener. At the end of a work day, my tendency is to talk too much about work with my wife, Rita. I am learning to first actively inquire about her day, before I bore her with too many of my work details. Passive listening is like listening to music in the background. Active listening is like listening to music with headphones on. My mental clutter disrupts my ability to concentrate on another’s concerns. I pray for the discipline of organizing my thoughts so I am prepared to become an active listener. Active listeners selflessly focus.
James challenged his community of believers to talk less, listen more and not harbor an angry attitude. Perhaps he had witnessed unhealthy interactions between those who should be treating each other with the upmost respect. James addressed his readers as brothers and sisters. This family of faith needed to raise the quality of their conversations. The better we get to know one another—the better we should be at anticipating one another’s needs. Passive listening easily misunderstands, but active listening gains insight. God blesses a heart that really wants to hear.
“The more you talk, the more likely you will cross the line and say the wrong thing; but if you are wise, you’ll speak less and with restraint” (Proverbs 10:19, The Voice).
Who deserves your undivided attention? How can you show them that you really know them? If you want to engage in active listening consider statements like, “You seem overwhelmed right now. I feel a lot of pressure as well, but I want us to support each other the best we can. How can
I help you?” If someone expresses an uncommon complaint, repeat back to them the essence of their words. It shows you care. For example: “My body aches and my head really hurts.” “It sounds like you don’t feel well at all. You probably didn’t sleep well.” Active listening empathizes.
Most of all, daily go to our heavenly Father to actively listen to His heart. What Christ says is the most vital communication we have all day. Thus, we start the day listening for divine direction so we avoid pitfalls and unproductive paths. A heart that first listens to heaven’s heart is the most effective in engaging hearts on earth. When we actively listen to the Almighty, His Spirit flushes out our selfish pride and replaces it with selfless humility. Our active listening works best when we’ve been with Jesus. The One who created us gives us ears to hear.
“Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches” (Revelation 3:22, The Voice).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me a heart that listens well to Your heart and to the heart of others.
Application: Who in my life needs me to actively listen to know and understand them?
Related Readings: Proverbs 17:28; Luke 10:39; Acts 10:33; 1 Corinthians 14:21; James 3:3-12