April/May 2013 - Vol. 67

Growing in the Skill of Listening – and Loving 
by Tom Caballes

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. - James 1:19-20
Many of us are not naturally gifted with the skill of listening. Many of us are eager to speak our minds first and seek to be understood rather than to listen and try to understand first. We are relational beings and the key part of relationships is communication. This ‘imbalance’ can cause problems, as listening is very important part of loving others. Added to our weakness in the flesh, our selfishness and our ‘me first’ attitude – it really becomes a challenge to live as men and women of God in the modern world in the context of Christian community. It is said that God gave us two ears and only one mouth, so we should listen twice more than we speak!

So how do we grow in the skill of listening?
1. What is the goal of listening? Is it to give a good advice? In our relationships, the goal of listening is to love and understand the person. They may not need our advice after all – they may instead need our hugs or words of love or comfort.

2. When listening, avoid all distractions. Learn to listen with complete attention. With so much disturbance around us, we need to carefully give our 100% undivided attention to those who we want to listen to. This might mean leaving for a quieter place to speak, or unhooking the phone, turning off cell phones or the computer.

3. Learn to listen with our ears, but also with our eyes and most importantly, with our hearts. Learn how to listen also for feelings – for joys and sorrows, for fears and anxiety, for hurts and disappointments. Ask yourself: what is he or she feeling now?

4. Learn to withhold any advice you want to give until you fully understand the person. You may ask more questions for you to understand more. Ask yourself as you listen: what does this person need – an advice, a loving embrace, a specific action, or a word of encouragement? In what way can I support him or her?

5. In order for us to truly understand the one we are listening to, are we able to put ourselves in their own shoes? What is really in his/her mind and heart? Learn to listen emphatically.

6. We are not to manipulate, judge or condemn anyone. We are there to love them. Even if people make mistakes, we are there to lift them up, not put them down.

7. When our goal as we listen is to love, it makes the process much simpler. As we learn to listen, we learn how to understand others better. We become more emphatic, more encouraging, and more loving – and become more like Jesus.

Other Scripture References
1. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. [Proverbs 18:13]

2. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
[Proverbs 10:19]

3. Other Scripture references: Ephesians 4:29; Proverbs 14:29; Proverbs 17:27.

For Personal Reflection and Group Sharing:
1. From a gauge of 1 [lowest] to 10 [highest], how would I grade myself in listening to others?
What are my strengths and weaknesses in listening?

2. In what way can I improve in learning to listen emphatically? What do I need to change?

Tom Caballes is the National Senior Administrator and a National Coordinator of the Lamb of God, a community of the Sword of the Spirit with 7 branches located throughout New Zealand. Tom also leads Kairos New Zealand, an outreach program for high school, university, and post-university aged people. 

Tom and his wife Mhel and their two daughters live in Wellington, New Zealand.


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