Listening well, the test of love

You give your wife flowers and say you love her, but she remains distant.

You apologize to your teenager for being angry and tell him you love him, but the barriers are still up.

You give your middle-schooler an expensive birthday present with a note that says “I love you”, yet her smile is only half-hearted.

Is the answer more flowers, a bigger and better present, a more sincere apology? Probably not. However, there is one thing you can do that will demonstrate the genuineness of your love. You can listen well.

When there is an argument it is all too easy to think you know what the other person is thinking even before the first word is spoken. The Bible calls this answering before listening. It is a shameful thing.

Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening, that is his folly and shame.”

You fail to listen well when you only assume that you know what the speaker means. This manner of “listening” leads to trouble. When you answer based on assumptions this leads to destructive communication.

Exchanges like this are all too common:
“You are not listening to me!”
“What do you mean I am not listening to you! I heard what you said, and I don’t like it one bit.”
“You have no idea what I am trying to say. I give up!”

Here is one way to show love in this kind of conflict. Calmly and respectfully repeat back to the speaker what you think you heard them say and mean. Stay with it until the other person confirms that you have accurately heard the intention behind his or her words. This does not necessarily mean that you agree with the speaker; however, the speaker can know that, at the least, you have clearly understood what was said. This requires sacrificial love. It lets the other person know that you are following Christ by considering him or her more important than yourself (Phil. 2:3-4)

For example you might say something like this in a calm and loving tone:
“This is what I understood from what you just said. Is that what you meant or did I misunderstand?”

Stay with it until you hear, “Yes, that is exactly what I meant.”

You might still disagree with what was said, but you have demonstrated that you are really interested in understanding. Following through with this practice will also allow you consider how you may have contributed to the conflict. Now the stage is set to bring healing and growth in troubled relationships.  You are putting Christ first and not your own interests.

Remember your goal is to represent God well, not to defend yourself and win the argument.

This is one way to show that your love is more than just words.

This will strengthen your relationships and God will be honored.

Everyday Talk

See especially chapter 3 on listening.


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