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LISTENING AND SHARING

 

Trust is a vital element in relationships. Along with being truthful, being able to share things with others and having the capacity to be a good listener are important qualities in building trust and in being trustworthy. This is true even among the lost, and it certainly is in the body of Christ.

 

When I was in my early 20’s I experienced a severe heartbreak. A lot of the problems in that situation came from the way I handled the letdown rather than from the woman who broke my heart. Still, I did reach out to people and it did not take me long to learn a hard lesson in how insensitive others can be. My own father told me he did not understand why I was so upset. Others did not want to hear it or thought I was being silly, and I got a couple of those “you think you’ve got it rough” lectures, too. That did not help, considering I was one who usually did not share my problems because “big boys don’t cry.” The pain of this situation was so deep that I could not keep it inside, so I reached out and, well, I got burned repeatedly. This is only one example from my life, but it illustrates the point well.

 

When I got saved I thought I could find more compassion from Christians during troublesome times in my life, and in all fairness I must tell you that I have found that compassion—up to a point. As it turns out, a lot of Christians in practice are no more compassionate than the people of the world, they’re just more polished and pious in their insensitivity. Just to give you one example, some years ago I was stressed out about some things, I do not now recall what about, and it happened that the deacon then assigned to my family’s area of town called me to see how I was. When I started sharing, even before I could get very much out of my mouth, he told me, “Well, brother, you’ve just gotta have faith in God.” I’m glad the Holy Spirit muzzled me then, because at that moment, in my distress, I could have easily lashed out in pain at this man, but I did not. I was thinking, “He knows me. Doesn’t he realize I have been putting my faith in God? I just needed someone to talk to!” I politely closed the conversation and forgave him, but in order to protect myself I resolved never to confide in him again, and to this day, I have not and I will not because I have not seen anything in this brother to make me believe he has dropped his religiosity in dealing with hurting people. I am sure he thought he was helping me, but that’s how folks think when they equate sharing issues with complaining.

 

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard Christians say, “I can’t complain,” “I won’t complain,” “I’m doing great,” or “I’m too blessed to be stressed,” it seems like I’d have so much money that I wouldn’t have to apply for disability!

 

I realize that on the other side of this coin, I, too, must be a good and compassionate listener. We are to love others and treat them the way we want to be treated:

 

Matthew 7:12:  “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

 

Colossians 3:12-15:  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were also called in one body; and be thankful.

 

I have had to examine myself to see if I was as compassionate to others as I wanted others to be to me and to each other, and I did not always pass the test. If there’s one other thing I cannot stand besides sermonettes and unsolicited advice, it’s believers using “speaking the truth in love” as a veneer to hide behind while issuing vicious rebukes and making cruel comments. I’ve met Christians like that, experiencing firsthand their prowess at machine-gunning others with the Scriptures.

 

Unfortunately there have been times when I have also been guilty of this. There is a necessity for holy rebuke and correction at times. However, it is all too easy to let one’s feelings or past weaknesses color one’s perception, causing the end result to be a verbal bludgeoning instead. This is something I have worked on and have made great improvements in by the grace of God. I have also, at times, been guilty of preaching sermonettes and giving unsolicited advice. I have worked on that and have improved in those areas also.

 

As for listening, it perturbs me when I know someone is not hard of hearing and I have spoken loudly enough to be heard, yet they ask me to repeat what I said. That shows me they did not listen. When someone is fidgety, in a hurry, or looking at their phone or computer, they give off the impression that they are not really all that interested in the person talking to them. Or, when you talk, they have a tendency to interrupt. Have I also been guilty of these things? Yes, I have.

 

What I am doing to correct this is making the effort to be more attentive. Unless I am tending to something that is truly important, there is no need for me to hurry up and do something or get back to what I was doing. When looking at my phone or my computer I am working to turn my attention to the person speaking and to make eye contact. Since my mind normally works very fast, I sometimes think someone is finished talking and begin to respond, only to find they are not done yet. The interruption is unintentional but still embarrassing. I am learning to pause longer before responding to someone just to be sure they have finished speaking.

 

So what can we distill from all this? If you must rebuke or correct someone, do not do it if you are in the flesh. You can be angry without sinning (Ephesians 4:26a). Do not use the Scriptures to hide behind while being nasty to someone. Speak the truth in love, and forgive those who have wronged you. Speaking the truth in love also involves being honest about what is wrong instead of making excuses for someone’s bad actions or otherwise glossing over it.

 

Slow down and listen to someone who is talking to you. Put down the phone, look away from the computer, and make eye contact with the person speaking. Do not hurry off unless what you are tending to is really important, and do not fidget or look away when someone is sharing things with you. Share real stuff. There are things that rise to the level of complaining, such as constantly grumbling about things you cannot change. Yes, I’ve been guilty of this also and am working on changing that.

 

Personal tragedies, sadness, life’s challenges, things you do not know how to deal with, and the like are things you should share. Be sure not to go into sermonette unless you are sure the Holy Spirit has given you something of that nature to share to the person you are listening to. Likewise, do not give unsolicited advice unless it is absolutely necessary, such as if a person is getting ready to deal with a situation he or she is clearly not ready to handle, for example. Make sure the other person is finished talking before responding. Be a loving, courageous Christian at all times. That way, you will not be searching to have that demeanor when the time comes to be there for someone. You will be sincere and not phony, ready and not unprepared. Know how to listen, and know how to share, both in what to get off your chest and in how you advise others who have made the investment of trusting in you.

 

And when dealing with the lost, have that same compassion and courage. As the saying goes, you might be the only Bible they ever read. Indifference or hostility can mean the difference between heaven and hell with them. Your offense might be the last offense they ever take from a Christian, resolving never to listen to a believer again, so if you must be firm, do it in love.

 

Proverbs 25:11-12:  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

 

Proverbs 27:5-6, 17:  Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful…As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

 

James 1:19-20:. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

 

1 Peter 1:22:  Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,…

 

1 Peter 3:15:  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;…

 

Jude 1:22-23:  And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

 

1 Corinthians 10:32-33:  Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

 

 

 

 

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