“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak . . .” James 1:19
A man was going to a party where he would be meeting his wife’s co-workers for the first time. He felt anxious as the time of the party grew near, wondering whether they would like him or not. Then he came up with an idea, an experiment, that instead of trying to impress everyone he would simply spend the evening listening, responding with phrases like “I understand what you’re saying, you feel strongly about that. . .” or “Let me see if I understand what you mean. . .” To his amazement, each person he talked to during the evening seemed content to be listened to without interruption. On the way home, his wife (whom he had not told about the experiment) told him that a number of people had made a point to tell her what a remarkable person he was. (Story paraphrased from Attracting Genuine Love by Drs. Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks)
Knowing she was anxious to tell her friends all about our recent trip to Israel, I overheard my wife Tee call someone the other day to visit. But as it turned out the friend she called had been going through some difficult personal issues and in desperate need of a listening ear from someone who cared. So, being the kind and thoughtful person she is, Tee graciously postponed her own agenda until another time, devoting the entire conversation instead to the needs of her friend. Overhearing this it occurred to me what a generous and loving gift my wife had given her friend – to simply listen.
We live in an incredibly noisy society today, thus the competition to be heard is fierce. Notice, for example, how our elected officials yell at each other rather than debate, how people out in public are constantly texting or chatting on their cell phones, or how often even private conversations become plagued by interruptions, one person trying to one-up the other – all desperate cries to get someone’s attention, to be heard.
So, what a brilliant move by the man who decided to spend his evening listening at the party rather than talking, and what an act of mercy on my wife’s part to listen and be present with her suffering friend! “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak. . .,” the scriptures remind us. Or as the famous prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi says, “Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.” . . . . And not so much to speak as to listen.