Read Proverbs 18:13
It feels good to share freely what we think. We like our opinion and we think others will like it, too. Today’s verse, however, provides a warning.
“To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.”
I can be guilty of not listening to others because I’m too busy thinking up my reply. It really comes back to bite me when my answer reveals I don’t understand what I’m talking about. My credibility on the issue goes down in others’ eyes and their confidence that I care about them does, too.
Our author chose his words well when he wrote “to answer.” Literally, he said, “He who GIVES an answer…” The words he uses in Hebrews give a picture of a return or a response. A helpful return or response blesses others because it shows we’ve heard them and can add to their thinking. A haste reply can wound.
If you’ve seen the movie “Meet the Parents,” you may remember the scene where Ben Stiller has to play water-volleyball with his future in-laws. Trying to prove himself, he spikes the volleyball after it’s been served across the net. He ends up breaking the nose of his future sister-in-law! Your words probably won’t break someone’s nose, but they still can do a lot of damage.
Our solution is in the word “listen.” Listening doesn’t just mean hearing through our ears. It takes perceiving and understanding as well. To practice these, you and I will have to take our time, ask questions, and wait ‘til the other person finishes speaking.
Jesus modeled incredible listening. Think about life from His perspective. He knew the universe. He was ALWAYS right. He didn’t have to listen to others because He was all-knowing God. Yet, to the blind man, He asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” He waited patiently as the blind man replied, “Rabbi, I want to see.” (Mark 10:51) Jesus knew the value of listening to another person, even if He assumed (rightly!) what the person needed from Him. The blind man didn’t just get his sight that day. He was heard and understood by the Son of God!
Where do you need to practice listening? Do you fire off an email in a thread before you’ve taken time to understand? Do you talk over someone who has a different political perspective than you? Do you notice your spouse getting frustrated and saying you’re not listening to them (even though you think you are)?
Try these two easy practices today to improve your listening:
- Ask questions: Former CEO of Hewlett Packard & presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina, said that she rose from secretary to CEO because she asked questions of technology professionals and listened to what she initially didn’t understand. You’ll experience growth and success when you ask questions.
- Pause: When you have instinct to speak back, instead give space and momentary silence while others are talking. It will honor them and give you time to reply thoughtfully.