You've all seen it. It happens all the time when you're eating at a restaurant with family or friends. You can't help but notice it. You look around and see booth after crowded booth with very little life. Folks are sitting there, but rather than enjoying conversation and time together, everyone at the table is silently texting or scrolling through the phone. No one is engaged. They're all just there eating dinner at the same time and place. I've been sitting in that silent booth texting away and I've been the one noticing that silent booth. I'll be honest, I didn't really realize how sad the scene is until I stepped out of the booth. Families and friends are together, but they're not really spending time together. Sometimes, sitting on the couch next to your favorite person is the loneliest place in the world. Being physically present and emotionally engaged are not the same thing. We see that evidence more and more in today's tech-driven world.
Can you be a good friend if you're not listening? Can you be a good parent if you're not hearing your children? I look back at those flawed moments and know for certain that I don't ever want our kids to think we weren't listening. Victoria Osteen recently Tweeted this, "Multi-tasking isn't always the best use of time. Sometimes we have to stop, look people in the eye, and give them the gift of listening." Life moves fast, but what does it matter if we're too busy to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Do you ever want others to say that you were too busy for them? That Tweet is so true. We've got to look people in the eye and let them know that our focus is on them and what they are saying.
Where does that leave us as followers of Christ? Luke 6:31 tells us "And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them." Do you genuinely want to be heard? Then you've got to treat others the same way and listen. Also, James 1:19 says "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." When I read "quick to hear" and "slow to speak" I can't help but see a picture of what authentic conversations are supposed to be like. I don't know about you, but I'm much faster in speaking than I am with my hearing. (In the true spirit of transparency, I confess my nasty habit of finishing the sentence you were saying for you.) This all applies to me too!
We can't only listen to the things we want to hear either. Ladies have long suggested that "selective hearing" is something most men are guilty of having. Truthfully, we ladies are just as guilty. The Word tells us in several places that we've got to listen to the advice of others. Sometimes it's solicited advice, sometimes it's not. I'm sure I'm not the only one who isn't a fan of unsolicited advice. Either way, we've got to listen to the people God has placed in our lives.
- "Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge." ~Proverbs 19:27
- "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." ~Proverbs 12:15
- "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." ~Proverbs 11:14
Be sure that you're listening to those around you. Slow down and pay attention. Someone needs you today. Maybe you're the one in need today; maybe someone has just the words you need to hear to make it through. You won't know unless you listen. Chose authenticity by choosing to listen. After all, you can't make a difference if you don't take the time to listen.