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Listening Well, Caring for Others


Listening Well, Caring for Others

         The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House.  He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said.  One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment.  To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.”  The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous!  Keep up the good work.  We are proud of you.  God bless you, sir.”  It was not until the end of the line, while greeting an ambassador, that his words were actually heard.  The ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

         It is a rare trait to find a person who listens well.  Yet the Scriptures speak to the value of godly listening.  Proverbs 18:13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.  James 1:19-20 commends the practice of disciplined listening saying: “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."

         In his excellent blog post, Dr. Robert Jones asserts that “Nothing is more Godlike” than godly listening. The Father listens to the Son (John 17:1) and the Spirit listens to the Father (John 16:13).  Most amazingly, the Father actually listens to us (Romans 8:15).  God’s children can pour out their hearts to their Heavenly Father (Psalm 62:8).  God never reaches a point where He says, “that’s enough!”

Can I encourage you to evaluate your listening skills:

  • Are you genuinely interested in what others have to say?
  • Do you seek first to understand, and then to be understood?
  • Do you communicate through non-verbal means your care and concern?
  • Do you know how to ask good questions that draw out a person’s thoughts? (Proverbs 20:5)

Francis Schaeffer was known for ministering to many who were struggling with spiritual doubt and pain.  He would devote himself for hours listening to the stories of those who came to him for help.  He said:  "If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last 5 minutes I will share something of the truth."  Those five minutes no doubt would be filled with spiritual impact.

May God grant us the ministry of godly listening!

© Dan Nah