The Grace of Listening

 “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

James 1:19-20

Most of us get this one wrong. We habitually rattle off whatever comes to mind and often don’t bother to listen. We already know we’re right; we just need to convince the other guy. Of course, the other guy is usually thinking the same thing.

Perhaps you recognize this scenario.

You’re having a discussion or a disagreement, and you’ve paused long enough to give your opponent a moment to respond to your enlightening wisdom. He’s now speaking, but you’re not listening. You’re far too busy contemplating your next argument. Before he’s able to put the period on his sentence, you let loose again, hoping to seal the deal.

Discussions like that usually don’t resolve anything. You end up right where you began. Except now the stubborn refusal to agree has left both sides fuming.

Have you ever been caught in that destructive cycle? I have. It’s one of the pitfalls of having a perfectionist personality. Those of us chained to that particular stronghold can be driven by a compulsive need to prove ourselves right. So we try.

Unfortunately, our behavior has consequences. Galatians 6:7 teaches,

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Apparently, so does a woman. On a number of occasions when I’ve tried to talk to my sons about something they don’t really agree with, I’ve realized they’re not tuning in. Instead of listening, they’re working on their own arguments. They’ve already made up their minds. Their retort to my advice offers the proof. Instead of hearing my point, they just justify theirs. Our chains have a way of winding themselves around the next generation.

Here’s the good news: there is One who sets captives free!

In Christ we’ve been given the power to live differently. We don’t need to keep repeating our same damaging patterns. Consider some of His promises.

  • Romans 8:37  . . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
  • Philippians 4:13  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:16  . . . But we have the mind of Christ.

God has given us so much more than we realize or utilize! We have been given the very mind of our Lord and Savior. He is always patient, always kind, always loving, always forgiving. What’s more, He’s a great listener.

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.

Psalm 10:17

Jesus desires to demonstrate His character through us. What if we allowed Him to teach us to listen like He does? It starts with learning to listen to Him.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret. Our problem isn’t actually that we don’t know how to listen; our problem is that we consistently listen to the wrong voice. We’re so tuned in to the cries of our own selfish desires that we often refuse to consider anything else.

We must learn to quiet ourselves and listen for the voice of our Shepherd. His motives are always to heal, to encourage, to restore. Rather than simply rattling off our own personal thoughts, we need to seek His.

When we take a moment to listen for His guidance, He will stir us toward restoration. He will convict us of our own selfish motives and reveal our deceptions. He will lead us on the path of encouragement when we listen for His words instead of spouting our own.

And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. Psalm 12:6

When we speak with His words, we don’t ever have to worry that we’ll say the wrong thing. His words create life where it didn’t exist.

And as we learn to let Jesus guide us through our difficult conversations, we will notice something else. We become changed. His presence reveals the fleshly attitudes of our hearts and sifts them. As a result, we become more like Him. We will naturally become better listeners and find ourselves compassionately moved to hear and consider the needs of others.

I’m so thankful that Jesus releases chains. He’s changed my heart, and I’ve learned to respond to people differently. Sometimes. But when I stumble, He’s always there to pick me back up and direct me toward forgiveness. Healing follows.

His love is better than life.

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