May 12, 2008

Learning to Listen

Ephesians 4:29-32

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak …
James 1:19


In the opening scene of the movie Kramer vs. Kramer, a husband comes home, exhausted from the day’s activities and preoccupied with one of his accounts. His wife, who has been home all day, wants to talk. She tries to tell him that their marriage is over and that she is going to leave him. He does not hear a word until the magnitude of what she is telling him actually dawns on him.

Many of us are much better at talking than at listening. On more than one occasion, while pretending to listen, I have not heard a thing that was said. I’ve often asked someone a question without bothering to focus in on the answer. And more than once my inattentiveness has tripped me up.

Some of us struggle to listen because we have a habit of speaking too much. We listen impatiently, thinking only of what we want to say next. One wife stormed out of a counseling session, saying, “Why talk? You never listen anyway.” Some parents also never listen to their children, and some children never listen to their parents.

Marriages and homes and relationships have been destroyed because someone did not bother to tune their ears to what was said. That’s why we need to develop the art of communication as described by James: Be quick to listen, and slow to speak. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you a better listener today!

Holy Spirit, teach us how to listen. Make us quick to listen and slow to speak. Help us to show kindness and respect to others, knowing that they too have something to say. Amen.

About the author — Arthur J. Schoonveld

Rev. Art Schoonveld is a retired minister in the Christian Reformed Church. Before retiring in 2001, he served churches in California, Illinois, and Michigan. Since his retirement he has worked part-time for the denomination and has served as an interim pastor. Art and his wife, Anita, have four children and nine grandchildren.

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