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Friday, September 30, 2016

Quick to Hear

I was just musing the other day. We read in James, "Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." (James 1:19) I get that this is a good idea in conversations and interactions with others. I try to practice it myself, and see it as essential in Internet discourse particularly, but always in everyday living.

How often do we fail to communicate because we fail to listen? We'll get up on our high horse or soap box and tell everyone they're wrong. More to the point, we'll do it without actually knowing how they're wrong. We'll operate on half-truths, misconceptions, and misguided ideas. What do they really believe? We're not sure. We didn't listen long enough to find out. So we end up tilting at windmills, trying to knock down imaginary dragons that no one actually believes in, or to slay the ogre that isn't really part of where they are. They will respond, of course, with equal vigor because they've now been accused of something that isn't true. And the battle is engaged.

I wonder if James knew the Internet was coming? No, of course not. It seems that our Internet world is extremely well suited to be slow to hear and quick to speak. I've even heard of and seen the "there's someone wrong on the Internet" syndrome where people seem to live their lives to cruise the ether and correct anyone they can find. But it's part of the Internet world. There is generally a necessary lag in any Internet conversation by the nature of the beast. So we have the opportunity to hear a little and respond in haste. Asking for more information, coming to a deeper understanding, is difficult just because of the medium itself. Unfortunately I don't see any "Internet exemption" for God's command in James. There is no "Be quick to hear and slow to speak ... unless it's inconvenient." As a general rule, then, slow to speak and quick to hear ought to characterize a Christian's interactions. And it doesn't. It should. We ought to work on that.

I have a question, though, beyond that. What I'm wondering about is how about when it comes to God's Word? Slow to speak; quick to hear? Should we be quicker to hear God's Word and slower to complain to God, to lift our prayers, our petitions, our woes? Oh, I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing all that. I'm just wondering if we shouldn't be as quick to do that before, you know, listening to God in His Word. Just thinking out loud here.


Bruce Hergert said...

I hear 'ya (ha ha). This reminds me of my number one pet peeve. I can't believe how many people feel it is their right and duty to finish my sentences. When I get to the end of a spoken sentence, the slightest pause is taken as the go-ahead to fill in the words for me.

I take this as a selfish act on their part. They want to hurry me up so they can start in on their response, reply, or insight. They may be listening to me, but they are hearing their own thoughts and formulating what to say before I'm even finished. They are so eager to speak, they end up speaking for me.

"Some people speak because they have something to say. Some speak because they have to say something." Abraham Lincoln (I think).

Thanks for listening!

Stan said...

I saw a comic strip once with two frames. The first was labeled "How women communicate" and it showed a circle starting with, "Listen to what they're saying" going through "Think about your response" and ending with "Tell them what you think." The second was "How men communicate." This circle started with "Wait 'til her lips stop moving" and ended with "Say what you were thinking." I think it's an unfair male-female representation, but I think it is a reasonably frequent human thing.

I have to say, though, that being as erratic as I am, very few who know me would think to try to finish one of my sentences. :)

David said...

However, sometimes thinking about what they are saying can be detrimental instead of thinking what I'm going to say. So often I find myself responding to what someone says instead of what they mean, but I'm just weird that way.

I agree, listening the Lord before speaking to Him would be very beneficial.

Stan said...

Yes. What I try to do is respond to what they say by finding out better what they meant. "You said ______. Did you mean _____?" Dig deeper before I "unleash". :)