There is an old adage that says, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we can hear twice as much as we speak.” As clever and funny as this saying is, most people find it true and personally challenging. What about you?
Not too long ago, I had someone close their eyes during my sharing time in Yada. I had previously given them the benefit of the doubt when I observed them becoming distracted or inattentive. But this time, after having just actively listened to them for 45 minutes, their behavior hurt and frustrated me. Recently, I learned about psychological studies done on infants where significant caregivers were asked to frown, scowl, or fake disinterest by appearing emotionless. It’s proven to immediately cause distress in infants. Well let me tell you, we adults are not that different if you ask me. It’s upsetting!
In Yada groups we make it our aim to put real listening into practice. Where in this hectic, noise-filled, opinionated world do we ever get the opportunity to think out loud about life and God’s Word with two loving friends listening without correcting or interrupting? Focused listening demonstrates respect, interest, and a willingness to connect and understand. This is different from listening to discern what we think, feel, or react to personally.
Active Listening Tools
Being a fully engaged listener demands patience, concentration, and focus. Many of us take notes when others are speaking. We document to remember what God is doing, where He is leading, and what He is saying. We even try to pay attention to what the person might be communicating with his or her body language, tone of voice, and gestures. We learn to replace old habits of judgment and giving advice by training ourselves to make observations, ask important questions, or offer words of affirmation instead.
Listen Like Jesus
Jesus was an expert at asking questions. Why? Surely it was not because He didn’t know the answers. On the Road to Emmaus, Jesus asks questions to allow the two men to express their feelings. Could it be because He wanted those He was with to hear their own voices processing their own thoughts so that they could freely reach decisions and conclusions on their own? Freedom to think, feel, and wrestle with God’s Word in the security of our Yada groups makes for true change and mature disciples.
Time to Speak
Okay … so we’ve listened, taken notes, and our friend finishes speaking. Does this mean our time ends with stares and awkward silence? Definitely not! Now it’s our turn to do one or more of the following:
- Affirm where we observe God working
- Encourage where we see personal growth
- Summarize our friend’s story in our own words
- Remind what God has said to them in the past
- Mention a theme revealed, a prayer answered, or a scripture repeated
- Ask powerful questions that point others back to God and His Word spoken personally to them
Listen To What The Spirit Says
We actively pay attention to what the Spirit is saying in the lives and stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then Yada feedback validates that we’re worthy of being listened to and that the listeners trust God to be at work in others to will and act according to his good purpose. Our meetings become a sacred place where the shy find their voices, the talkative use their ears, and where the Holy Spirit is entrusted to counsel and change us.
Listen To What God’s Word Says
“My dear brothers/sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry …” (James 1:19).