It seems that the world never runs out of questions to be answered.
More specifically, my children never run out of questions that NEED to be answered.
And yet, through their almost-never-ceasing-inquires-of-the-most-dire-nature, I can see that no matter how many, how urgent, how earnest, how life-altering questions can be… we, as people, have an equal abundance of poor listening habits.
Any of these sound familiar?
#1- Ask a question, dash away before any reasonable time has elapsed in which an answer could be given.
#2- Ask a question, as the response is given, begin to think you hear an answer that is not the desired answer so…
a. Stop listening altogether.
b. Ask the question again; maybe a different answer will come this time?
c. Start arguing, complaining, or fussing.
#3- Ask a question, maybe even a REALLY good question, but get distracted during the answer and stop listening before the end.
#4- Ask a question, spend the whole time “listening” (aka- formulating arguments to the contrary) only to argue when the response is complete.
It would be great of everyone reading this post could just say, “Man, Jill, your children have some AWFUL listening skills. I’m glad people in my life aren’t that way!” But, let’s be honest here, while SOME people are good listeners, the above list of poor “listening techniques” I see in my children is ALSO found in our society at large.
And, maybe, inside ourselves.
And this is a problem. A big problem, bigger even than the 4 examples I listed. Our poor listening skills affect our interpersonal relationships AND they affect our relationship with God.
Scripture tells us to ASK of God!
Ask and it will be given.
Seek and you will find.
Knock and the door will be opened.
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
Yet, so often, we don’t find this scripture to be true in our lives. Scripture tells us to ask, seek, and knock and we think we’ve done these things and yet God hasn’t given us answers.
Maybe it isn’t that we aren’t ASKING correctly, but it is our LISTENING that is wrong.
One time I had someone say to me, “I’m a giver; I like to bring key questions.”
But here’s the thing: even KEY questions are only good if you listen for the answer.
Sometimes being able to ASK the questions is the hard part. But just as often, if not more, LISTENING for the answer is even harder.
So what do we do about this? Cause let’s face it, our poor ability to listen is hurting us. It is hurting our relationships with those we care about, it is hurting our ability to interact with our world, it is hurting our relationship with God.
So what do we do? Let’s try these ideas:
*ACKNOWLEDGE tendencies. It’s time to get honest about the ways in which we don’t listen well!
*PRACTICE listening. Yes, that means MAKING yourself pay attention, wait for an answer, stop arguing and just LISTEN!
*ASK purposeful questions. Don’t ask questions out of habit but because of purpose.
*TRUST. Too often we can’t listen because we do not trust when we ask, we think WE know best.
God, in a culture that provides us with abundant examples of poor listening, numerous distractions to get in the way, and more reasons to stop listening… help us to be people who listen. God, give us the strength to be honest about our own listening skills. Grant us the courage to ask forgiveness to those who we’ve wronged when we don’t listen. Build in us character that leads to good communication. Help us to TRUST in you, that when we ask you… when we seek you… that we can TRUST you enough to LISTEN for your answer!