Are You Listening?

October 12, 2020

“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13 NIV

“I HEARD YOU!”, she said, “and I said no!”

“How could you have heard me?” he asked. “You interrupted me over and over and I never have completed a sentence yet. I call that RUDE.”

Rude. Yes. That’s one word for it. King Solomon labeled answering before truly listening “folly” and “shame.”

Folly: A lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight; criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct.

Shame: Painful humiliation and distress. 

The king is right. Answering before listening does show a lack of good sense and foresight. You can commit yourself without actually knowing the commitment you are making. You put your relationship with the other person at risk. You subject both of you to humiliation and distress. 

Why do we do that? Well, speaking for myself, I can say that when I don’t listen well it is almost always because I am already formulating what I will say in response. I think with just a few words from the other person I know what they are going to say, and I consider what I have to say to be right or maybe more significant. So, I may interrupt them with my thoughts prematurely. It’s rude, I may prove I don’t know what I am talking about, and I subject myself to humiliation and shame because it becomes obvious I was way off base with my comments. As I look around at the varied conversations I hear, I don’t think I’m alone in my haste to speak. 

Why would we speak before we hear? Well, we may be impatient and just want the conversation to move forward. But likely most of the time the issue is pride. I speak before I listen because I am filled with pride. I think what I have to say has to be far more important than what the other person is saying at the time. I consider myself smarter and better informed--or I’m just rude and do not value what someone else has to say. One thing is for sure—whatever my reasons are, they simply don’t hold water. It shows lack of character on my part and conveys lack of value for the other person. Not the way to build a relationship. God can help me do better than this when I admit that I need help.

  • Pray: Jesus, sometimes I am a lousy listener. I speak before I listen, and certainly before I think and truly hear the other person’s heart. Please help me be aware of the pride and self-centeredness in me that motivates me, then give me the discipline to overcome it. Amen.