Like a sputtering engine begging to get into high gear is the man or woman who must respond to another before giving that person a full hearing. In Proverbs 18:13, Solomon offers a rather straightforward word about this kind of person. It states,
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.
Indeed. And yet so many of us simply cannot sit still long enough to let those around us tell us what is on their hearts and minds. We must speak or we will die, even if we risk folly and shame.
Are you one of these kinds of people? A helpful test might answer that question for you. Reflect on your ability to sit quietly—I mean, really quietly—while your parent, spouse, friend or child expresses something—anything—to you. Do you get anxious to interrupt? Do you find yourself having to practically sit on your hands and swallow your breath just to keep from barging into the person’s story? Friend, if this is you stop it! Calm down and let the other speak. Ask the Lord to help you listen.
But there are other questions with which we can test ourselves. For example, after someone has shared with you, can you honestly restate back to that person that which he or she just shared? Do you find yourself only mildly hearing the one you are with? Too often people just stare at one another’s flapping jaws, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to verbally unload. Listening to another’s tale is supplanted by watching another’s mouth move. If this describes you, then ask the Lord to help you listen. And then listen!
Of course, James presents the most captivating lesson on how to hold the tongue. He writes in chapter 3:7 of his epistle that “every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind.” But in verse 8 he adds that “no human being can tame the tongue.”
What then to do with a tongue willing to wax eloquently, while ears seem only to remain plugged with wax? Take ownership today of these three thoughts: First, consider every individual with whom you interact a divine appointment from a Holy God. Because you cast it (rightly) in that light, then listening becomes an act of service and obedience to the Lord. Secondly, choose from the start to know that you do not have all the answers to life’s probing questions. Furthermore, while your stories may be terrific, so are those of another. Thus, your silence truly is golden.
Lastly, do the thing mentioned a couple of times above. Ask the Lord to help you listen. After all, there may be volumes of things you are to learn from every one you meet.
Do you hear that?