Listen More, Think Less (revised)

James 1:19

My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak.

Listen to learn.

Taking a class we really want to take or absolutely have to take, how do we listen? We listen to learn. We have to, especially the more difficult the class and subject matter. Whether it’s calculus, quantum mechanics, or molecular biology, we have to tune in in an acutely receptive manner in order to absorb the material and actually understand it. Chances are, we are not forming our own opinions about it or how the teacher should really do his or her job. Or we’re not saying to ourselves, “Quantum mechanics should behave this way!” We’re trying desperately to grasp it so that we can understand it, and therefore, move forward accordingly. According to the reality of the subject.

How much more complicated and nuanced and difficult to know are people? More than even the intricately difficult subjects mentioned above? We know so little about the brain, let alone the spiritual realm and how it is influencing us at all times.

And yet how often do we listen to our fellow human beings in this reverent, open-and-ready-to-learn manner?

Not enough.

We cannot possibly know another person the tiniest fraction of how God knows them.

When we listen without judgment, expectation, or agenda, we affirm the other person. This is when we are at our very best during interpersonal interactions. Affirming someone is encouraging them in who they are. Isn’t this what God does for us? He celebrates us for who we are, not only for what we do. And how powerful is that? How inspiring? Who have you felt closest to in your life? Most likely, it was someone who affirmed you, believed in you. Someone who listened to you because they deemed you worthy to listen to. Conversely, one of the most degrading experiences is to not be seen or heard. They say indifference is worse than hatred.

Listen to learn.

Listen in a way to actually learn about the person. Who they are, where they come from, what they believe, what they like, what makes them angry, what excites them…Listen for patterns that tell what shapes them. Listen without thinking of a thousand things while they’re talking, but listen only to learn. This is powerful. In a sense, you are really limiting yourself.

The power of limiting yourself.

Of listening without judgment, expectation, or agenda.

Try to take a day to practice listening in this manner. It is quite difficult, and for some will feel foreign and nearly impossible. But you will be surprised at what you will now hear and actually learn when you stop thinking so much and you shut your big yapper!

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