“Good listening is a great means of grace in the dynamic of true Christian fellowship. Not only is it a channel through which God continues to pour his grace into our lives, but it’s also his way of using us as his means of grace in the lives of others.”
It is one thing to hear, but another thing to listen. Good communication and healthy relationships depend upon not only hearing the words other people say, but on carefully listening to what they mean to communicate. To listen is to love.
But if we are honest, few of us are good listeners. It’s easy enough to hear others, but very difficult to truly listen to them. That may be particularly true and particularly important in the context of the local church where we are called to love one another, to care for one another, and to bear one another’s burdens. None of this is possible without good listening. David Mathis addresses this problem in his excellent book Habits of Grace and offers six lessons in good listening.
Good listening requires patience. We must not succumb to hasty or inattentive listening, but be willing to listen patiently and thoroughly. We must focus on the speaker and not on the inevitable distractions in our minds or in our environment. We must listen in such a way that we are not already planning what we will say to combat the speaker or to defend ourselves. “Good listening,” says Mathis, “silences the smartphone and doesn’t stop the story, but is attentive and patient.”
Good listening is an act of love. When we listen poorly, we are just waiting for the opportunity to cut off the other person so we can move on with our lives. “Poor listening rejects; good listening embraces. Poor listening diminishes others, while good listening invites them to exist, and to matter.” Good listening is key to fulfilling so many of the ethical commands of the Bible, the greatest of which is love.