Can You Hear Me Now?
That is the title of the message I preached last Sunday.
Years ago, I was an elementary school administrator, one day after chapel as I headed back to my office a short distance away, feeling the satisfaction of helping students to connect with God and His Word giving myself a high-five for doing so I was confronted by six angry faces, all parents of students who had just attended chapel; demanding an immediate meeting.
As we walked the short distance to my office, my brain raced, I quickly thought about the two previous days of the week questioning what could have happened that would require this immediate attention. There was absolutely nothing that came to mind.
In those few minutes of preparing to meet, I knew that I would have to have a posture of engaged and profound listening. I did some intense praying and asked the Holy Spirit to help and counsel me before I sat down to listen to what would come next.
Here are some of the practices that I have learned through the years which God reminded me of:
- View correction as a good thing
“Let a righteous man strike me, it is a kindness; let him rebuke me; it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” PS 141:5
If we are to view correction from a fellow believer as a kindness and a good thing, we need to pray for God’s help. We need to have a humble spirit and be ready to receive and not refuse it.
- Remember the danger of being wise in your own eyes.
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Pr 26:12
There are a thousand variations of ways we can think we are wiser than others or have a more accurate understanding of things than they do. There is a temptation we must resist to consider ourselves wiser than those who attempt to correct us.
- Determine that you really want to hear and understand their concern.
Try to understand what it is like for the other person(s). We need to learn to weep with those who weep. We need to learn to ask questions to help us see things from their perspective.
- Keep an open mind. Wait until you have really heard them before deciding whether or not to disagree.
To be quick to listen means we really try to hear what someone is saying before we disagree, interrupt, or take a hard stand.
- Remind yourself that God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud.
A humble person knows he could be wrong. A humble person knows he doesn’t know it all and that he needs God’s help.
I want to do all I can do to be humble, because I don’t want God to resist me. I would rather humble myself than have God humble me.
- Be slow to defend yourself. Remember, God is perfectly able to defend you.
When someone disagrees with you, they aren’t necessarily attacking you. And even when someone attacks you, it is better to try to respond with gentleness. Remember, A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. PR 15.1
- Don’t start formulating a rebuff while the other person is still speaking. That is not listening.
Quickly defending yourself and formulating your response before hearing all that is on the table is not profound listening. Slow down your response.
- Ask questions. Draw them out.
Seek clarification. Depending on the situation, take notes. Ask questions like, “How did that make you feel when I said that?” Or, “What could I have done better or what could I have done that would have been more helpful to you?” Ask if there is anything else, they would like to share with you or if they have any other concerns.
- Don’t write off their concern because they don’t deliver it perfectly.
It is so easy for us to focus on the way someone shares with us rather than what they share. In our pride we can dismiss what someone shares with us because they are emotional or upset as they talk to us; yet some of the content could still be accurate.
- Sometimes you might not clearly understand what they are saying, assure them that you will consider and pray about what they have said.
We don’t have to immediately agree with every observation someone brings, but we should really want to see anything God wants us to see. At times people will share things with you and you won’t be able to see it right away. That doesn’t mean they are wrong. Sometimes we need to think about things and pray about them.
Sometimes we can “listen” to people, but not really hear what they are saying. Sometimes we formulate our counterargument or defense while they are still speaking. Or we write them off: “They’re just emotional;” “They are over-reacting to what I said.” We can be too quick to think or say, “I disagree.”
I must admit that I am a work in progress and that I am still growing into becoming the best listener that I can be, but I am trying to grow and learn to be “quick to hear” as James tells us:
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)
Maybe, my lessons can be of help to you as you grow into the best listener that you could be.
Though I can’t share the details of the meeting outcome, I can tell you my relationship with those parents grew stronger that day because God was with me and blessed the practices that I was able to use in that moment. What began as an angry confrontation ended with a beneficial conclusion for all of us in the room, and God received the Glory!
I invite you to join us this week for one of our Sunday morning service options.
- 9am: In-person OUTDOOR service on the Island. Please bring your own lawn chair.
- 11:00am: Livestream on our Neighborhood Church of Chico Facebook page and YouTube channel.
If you missed last Sunday’s message Can You Hear Me Now?, click here to listen to the podcast or watch the video.