When was the last time someone really stopped and listened to you? How about you? Be honest — when was the last time you stopped, set aside your own agenda, and really listened? I mean without trying to figure out how you were going to respond and what you were going to say next or thinking about all the to-dos you had on your list?

What an important skill and what a gift it is, this difficult thing called listening.

In our move to Killeen and our transition over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many new people and test out this important skill.

I’ll be frank. I’ve not always done it well! Trying to get stuff done, too much on my plate, unable to stop and set aside my own agenda and too tired to really pay attention ... there are so many things that have gotten in the way of listening!

Our busyness in life and our constant striving to achieve keep us from listening to our children, grandchildren, spouses and friends.

That doesn’t even touch on how flippant we can be with those who we just run into…

Poor listening causes so many unnecessary heartaches — anger, misunderstandings, broken relationships, hurt feelings and feelings of inadequacy, just to name a few.

I’ve also noticed that people are starving for someone to just listen to them. There are so many people who just want someone to care enough to set everything aside and be present for them — not with any answers or advice, just a listening ear. You may be feeling that right now.

So how can you be a better listener? An old saying that has always struck me is: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” — Epictetus

Scripture speaks into this also:

Proverbs 18:13 (NIV): “To answer before listening — that is folly and shame.”

James 1:19-20 (NIV): “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

So, what it comes down to is taking the time to listen and understand. Then, take the time to respond appropriately.

Stop what you’re doing, and look the person in the eye. Try to understand their situation, ask questions and then just listen.

Some cultures teach about “reading the air” — hearing the hidden meanings and the needs behind the words. Try listening for what’s behind the words. You will be amazed at the leaps forward in building relationships. What an amazing gift you will be given when people start listening because you listened to them.

But hear this. God hears you. He is a faithful listener. It’s in Him that we can learn to become the listeners he has made us to be.

Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV): “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Let me know what you hear!

The Rev. Gerry Harrow works out of St. Paul Lutheran Church- The Grove and Grace Lutheran Church in Killeen. He can be contacted at gwharrow@gmail.com.

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