He who answers before listening—
that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs
This post is directed to husbands and fathers. However,
wives and moms are free to read as well. You may even want to forward this post to your husbands.
Men, God has charged us with
leading our families. The biblical basis for our leadership is found in such passages
as Eph. 5:25-33 and Eph. 6:4. This
leadership is an awesome responsibility. We are to represent Christ to our
wives and children. In 2 Cor. 13:10 we learn that biblical leadership is to
have the focus of building others up and not tearing them down. Paul says in Ephesians
4:29 that our words are rotten if they don’t build others up. Each of us can think of examples of leadership
that are not especially building or encouraging. Perhaps our fathers appeared
to tear us down more than they built us up. Perhaps you have had a supervisor
who led by intimidation. God, however,
has called us to be different than that. Our leadership is to build up those
under our care. We are to lead with understanding and compassion. Thankfully,
God has given us specific directions in his word to help us be leaders who
build others up. In this post we will
look at one of these directives – not to answer without listening.
One common temptation is to think
that we know exactly how to solve a problem before we even hear what the problem
is. For example, you hear two of your
children fussing over a favorite toy. You walk in and dispense judgment based
upon previous disputes over this toy. You just assume that the cause of the
upset this time is the same as the last time. Or, perhaps you believe you know
the reason for your wife’s apparent discouragement as soon as you walk in the
house after work. You look at your wife and you are sure you have seen that
look on her face before. You believe you know what the problem is, so you tell your
wife that she needs to have a better attitude and not be so easily discouraged.
Thinking you have been especially observant, you are not even aware that your wife
is miffed at your “encouragement.” These
are two examples of answering before listening.
These two examples illustrate a
severe problem. Pride leads us to think that we can solve problems by making educated
guesses about the reason for problem. But Proverbs 18:13 makes the rather
startling statement that answering before listening is a foolish and shameful
thing. When we answer before we listen
we act as though we don’t need input from others to make a wise judgment. Over
time this attitude can lead to bitterness and resentment from those we lead.
This is one sin whose bitter fruit may take years to mature. Little children
seldom have either the ability or the opportunity to address the damage you
cause by answering before listening.
“Josh, I see that you still have
not learned to share your toy with Ryan.”
“But, daddy, this time I didn’t….“
"Now Josh, you know that you must
respect daddy and not talk back to me.”
“Josh, I said no back talking! It
is not right before God to be disrespectful to daddy. Not another word!”
What Josh was trying to say was
that Ryan was not upset with Josh about sharing the toy. Ryan was actually
fussing because he rolled the toy over his finger. Even though Josh had been
guilty of not sharing in the past, this time he was actually sharing with Ryan
when Ryan hurt his finger.
Josh knew that if he said any more
in his defense he would be disciplined, so he just went along with the Dad’s
faulty assessment. Over the years Josh said less and less when Dad answered
before listening. By the time Josh
reached his teen years he wasn’t really interested in hearing what Dad had to
say about anything. For his part, Dad
wondered what happened to his relationship with Josh. Why was Josh “suddenly”
distant and non-responsive? Dad is unaware that the withdrawal started years
ago because Dad had become an expert at answering before listening. To be sure,
Josh is not an innocent bystander; he had done much to provoke his father. But
dad had lost the opportunity to find out what Josh really thought, because he
answered before he listened.
This is why this sin is shameful.
It can rob you of the relationships you hold most dear. Why not take some time
now to examine your habitual responses to your children and to your wife? Ask
your wife if you answer before you listen. It is not too late to reclaim the ground
you may have lost. God is a gracious God. However, if you persist in answering
before listening, you will only push away those closest to you.
- Do you build up or tear down with your words?
- Do you answer before you listen?
God can help you change. Your
family needs you to be a listener who really hears them out. Think carefully
about this issue.
- What are some ways you can find out if you answer before listening?
If you have been answering before listening, how does God want you to solve the problem?