I was at the movies last night with some friends. I was a little embarrassed when a conversation (conversation in this case being a nice way to say argument), was carried into the the theater and continued on when we sat down before the movie started and was loud enough for the rest people in the theater to hear us. The topic? Should Lance Armstrong be stripped of his seven Tour De France titles. Earthshaking! Ok… on the grand stage of life it really isn’t all that important. But I did learn something that really is important to my life and the way I talk about others.
I can’t tell you how much I have learned about myself and life from doing counseling as a pastor. Among the best lessons I have learned is something we all come to find out about life. There are two sides to every story. Often I only see or care about one side of the story (that usually being mine).
Forgetting that there are two sides to every story has lead me to repeatedly sin in 2 ways.
1. I don’t listen. Confident that my version of the story is the right one, I don’t have any interest in hearing the other person out – my only interest is to have them agree with my view! James says: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak” – James 1:9 My lack of willingness to listen really is about pride, it shows that I don’t believe I have anything to learn from listening to others. Understanding and living in the truth demands that your are humble enough to listen to others – especial those who love God and love you!
2. I pass on gossip. I have participated in conversations that make others look bad, not knowing the whole story or having any personal part in the solution. Often I excuse the behavior on the pretext that it’s “just illustrating a bigger picture”, or asking for “council in a difficult situation” or as it being “a prayer request”. Paul says in Ephesians, ” Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29. Often I find, that in wanting to be “in” on a conversation, often I’ll start talking without thinking about what is being said or without concern as to who is being talked about. I also have found, that just like the TV News or magazines, it’s easier to focus on the negative than the positive.
What’s the solution for me? I’m working on becoming more aware of my motivation in conversation. I need to be asking myself, “Is this a conversation I need to be a part of?”, “Am I speaking with a good grasp of the whole truth?”, “Is this conservation seeking resolution and or the best for the person I’m talking about?” and “What can I learn from hearing others perspective?”. Prayer and confession are making me more aware of what it means to submit to God in all things.
How about you?
1. If we aren’t good at listening to others, is it possible that may not be very good at hearing God either?
2. Can you think of one practical step you can take to becoming a better listener?
3. When was the last time you were part of a conversation and stopped it because you regarded it as gossip?