I was sitting in my office with a man going on and on about his terrible marriage. His wife does this and that, is on him about everything…blah, blah, blah.
I finally interrupted, “What would she tell me?” He said he didn’t know. “So you are having a really bad time getting along with your wife and you don’t even know what she thinks is wrong in the marriage?”
“Oh, I can tell you what’s wrong in the marriage!” he exclaimed. I responded, “No, you don’t know have a clue. You’re not listening to her.”
“I listen to her all the time! That’s all she wants to do is fight!”
“No, she wants you to listen. And I’m talking about listening to her concerns, without planning your own comeback. Know what she thinks so well that you could actually argue her side.” And then I gave him homework…to have that kind of conversation with her.
The next day I got an email from his wife asking what happened. She told me that her husband was a different man, and that for the first time in several years she has hope for her marriage. All he did was listen.
One of the most valuable classes I took was way back in high school. I don’t even remember what class it was. I believe some kind of English or Literature class, but we spent the semester on debate. We were taught how to debate, and then we staged several debates. The main ingredient in the course was learning how to logically argue in favor of something you are personally opposed to, and against something you are in favor of. We were taught how to think through arguments from others’ perspective and logically present their point of view in a compelling way, even though you disagree. It was hard! And it was hard because we don’t naturally do that. We want to listen to people we agree with and read about things that we already believe. But that gets us nowhere. You never learn by doing that.
And we see this happening everywhere in our world. The whole race relations stuff going on right now largely involves groups of people pointing fingers at each other. And both sides read and post every article they can that coincides with their point of view, a point of view that they’ve not been willing to have challenged. College students now boo off the stage speakers who are not to their liking. We don’t want to listen to the other side, and it is destroying our culture. Look at what’s happening in politics. I don’t ever remember a time when Democrats and Republicans have been so stubbornly set in their viewpoints that they are no longer talking to each other. Conservatives are locked into Fox News. Liberals are locked into MSNBC and CNN. And both bash each other. Fox News fans slam MSNBC and MSNBC fans slam Fox News.
I watch both. I read all the articles. I try to explain the viewpoints of those I tend not to agree with. And until you get there and are willing to really listen, I mean listening to learn with a willingness to change your thinking (otherwise it’s not listening), instead of listening so that you have more ammunition, until you do that, you never really learn, and you certainly do not grow.
If there is one source to the growing division in our country right now, it is that very thing. We are not listening to each other.
Are you? Are you listening to the other side in the Black Lives Matter / Blue Lives Matter debate? Are you listening to the other side in the political war? Are you listening to your husband? Are you listening to your wife? Really listening?
Otherwise, you are just opinionated, judgmental, and divisive. Characteristics that ought never describe a follower of Jesus.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19 NLT).