Updated: Apr 26, 2020
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. -Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Have you ever sat with a friend and felt exhausted because they talked about themselves so much? You sat there after a while, secretly hoping they would stop talking and listen to you because you have something to add. You have a story to tell. An experience to share. A truth to speak.
Well I have known what this is like. Because that person who talks about herself too much is me.
I’ve caught myself in conversations bringing the conversation back to my experience because apparently it just has to be shared. But I have watched faces of people lose me in those moments because I am not giving them an opportunity to tell me about how they are doing, what they are going through, their experience. I am not allowing them to speak back to me.
It’s been a humbling process of learning for me, and my word for 2020 is listen. My goal is to listen well to others. To speak when words need to be said. To be silent and receive words said back to me when it is not my turn.
The last three blogs have been in a five-blog series on what I believe to be the path to cultivating authentic relationships with God and people (and even with self). A relationship manifesto of all five can be found here.
Those three were focused on becoming aware of who we are, what we feel and think, and how to accept that and acknowledge that to God and others. But relationships are not supposed to be one-sided. One person doing all the talking. No listening.
Relationships are meant to be reciprocal in nature. They involve two people. There has to be a give and take, a time for speaking and a time for listening.
Though it is incredibly brave and vulnerable and even crucial to become aware of, be accepting of, and acknowledge our feelings to the world, it is also good to give another the floor. To take a listening posture.
We cannot grow or have whole relationships without it.
Listening allows another point of view to help us see something in our lives more clearly.
Listening allows God’s word to pierce through and speak the truth we need to hear.
Listening allows for words of peace, comfort, joy, and hope to be spoken over us when we are struggling.
Listening allows for clarity when confused.
Listening allows for truth when our feelings may be lying to us.
And here is where the fourth piece comes in: admit. Aware. Accept. Acknowledge. Admit.
Admit (according to Merriam-Webster):
To allow scope for: permit
To concede as true or valid
To allow entry
Synonyms: confess, allow, agree, own up to.
When we humble ourselves and be quiet, take a listening posture, we are admitting another into the depths with us. When it is our turn again to speak, we can admit if there is a truth that was heard that contradicts something we have felt or believed. We can admit that we were wrong if we were. We can stand in agreement with God or others. It is a beautiful thing.
So how can we listen and admit to God?
1. Read and get to know His word. This is His main mode of communication with us. I firmly believe in being brutally honest with God in prayer (you can read how I learned that here). I believe that we can tell Him when we are angry with Him or fighting doubt in our faith. But I also believe that if we are not anchored in the timeless, and immovable truth of the word of God in the Bible, those feelings will carry us away in the storm. It is the word that anchors us. It grounds us. It sets our feet firmly on the rock that cannot be shaken. So let's open our bibles, and let God speak. And let's listen. Let's pay attention to what we see about His character, about us as human beings, about life and hope and grace. We can choose to memorize one scripture per week for three months. And see how knowing the word anchors us when everything else is falling apart.
Some great apps for Bible Reading: Youversion, Blue Letter Bible, She Reads Truth, He Reads of Truth. Here is a link for my favorite bible if you need a new one or if you do not have one at all. **Disclaimer, as an Amazon Affiliate, I would receive a small portion of the sale.**
2. Practice Listening, Silent Prayer. We are not great at this because we are a people who likes to talk about ourselves. Use time to speak in prayer. But also spend time in listening prayer. Listen to the word of God spoken over us. Listen quietly in moments of silence and solitude. What is God telling your heart? We may not audibly hear Him, but there is something that springs up in our hearts when we quiet our minds, our mouths. We can hear from within.
Here are a few great resources on listening in prayer:
3. Admit truth. Say it out loud. Let's speak it over our hearts. Speak it back to Him. Agree with the words He speaks over us. Hearing truth is vital. Speaking it is transforming. Spend time in confession in prayer. Let's confess if we were wrong. Confess our unbelief. Confess any sin. Admit truth that may contradict the feelings that we have.
Look at Psalm 69 with me for an example of this. See how David has become aware of, accepted to some degree, and acknowledged his feelings to God in verses 1-4:
“Save me, O God,
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
Where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
The floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help [anyone else feel this right now???];
My throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
Looking for God.
Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head;
Many are my enemies without cause,
Those who seek to destroy me…”
Then he starts praying these types of things in verses 13-18: But I pray to you, Lord. Rescue me. Do not let me sink. Deliver me. Do not let the floodwaters engulf me. Answer me. Do not hide your face from me. Come near.
In the middle of praying those prayers of desperation, he is speaking truth to his heart. He is asking God to rescue Him because he knows these things about God:
He gives favor.
His love is great.
His salvation is sure.
His love is good.
He turns to us in mercy.
Then look down at verse 33: “The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.”
David spent time admitting the truth that He KNEW about God. It transformed his whole prayer, his whole perspective. It can do the same with you and me.
And how can we listen and admit to others?
1. Allow another to speak truth into my situation. This may sting. Get ready. But it may feel like healing balm on a wound, too. In the last blog on acknowledgment, I shared with you how to tell someone how you feel. But then it's time to be quiet, and hear what they have to say back to us. Don’t interrupt. If you do not trust that this person will speak to you from love, then you may not need to acknowledge to them how you feel about something. Not every person should be in the deep places with us. But if we trust that this person loves us and loves God, and we talk with them about something we are going through, we then need to allow them the space to speak truth over our souls. Avoid a defensive posture. Just listen. We never know what kind of healing and freedom we could experience by hearing another point of view. We do not have to accept another's point of view as truth if it does not line up with scripture, but it is good to see if we can find nuggets of truth when others speak back.
2. Admit if there is wrong on our part. If we notice in this reciprocal conversation that we may have been or done wrong in some way, let's be willing to admit that. There is power in confessing that out loud in the presence of another.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
If you are struggling right now (like me and so many of us are during this COVID pandemic), think of the feeling you are feeling. Know that it is OK to feel it. Name it out loud to God or another. And then listen.
May what you hear breathe life into your dry and thirsty soul.
May you know freedom and hope and truth and peace.
May you feel loved. Known. Seen.
I confess that in prayer and in conversations
I speak before I listen.
Will you change my habits?
Will you help me be
Slow to speak,
Quick to listen?
I will quiet my heart, my mouth
To hear what you have to say.
To let truth flood in.
The truth that sets me free.
In Jesus' Name,
Creative Journaling Prompt
What is that you need to say?
Why is it so important to say it?
What makes you a good listener?
What makes you a poor listener?
What are three things you can do today that can help you listen well?
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Also, I offer one-on-one personal coaching to help women in their journey to know and love themselves and be known by others by learning how to set boundaries and communicate their feelings and needs in healthy ways. I walk with them on a journey to having whole relationships with self, God, and others. For more information on how to get personal coaching with me, check out this link.
Thanks for sitting a while with me today.