Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak … –James 1:19
Have you ever tried to give a friend or relative some friendly advice or godly counsel, yet as you talk with him, his ears are closed and his motor-mouth is running? He may be struggling with a challenging problem or depressing situation, so he approaches you for your thoughts. You soon realize he may be hearing you, but he’s not listening.
He argues with every point you make. With every Scripture you quote, he nods in agreement while spewing semi-incoherent words from the Grand Canyon that resembles his mouth. He talks nonstop as he justifies and excuses everything you try to objectively share with him.
As an example, a young Christian lady (whom we will call Gertrude), recently asked me, “Why do all godly men only think about, talk about and want sex? When I am out socially, the only thing Christian guys seem interested in is sleeping with me.”
Since I am a Christian man, I took her accusation as a personal insult. But I decided to try and help her anyway.
After a few questions, I tried explaining that true godly men don’t act like she described. I tried sharing the scriptural stand on sex within marriage. I then explored the scenarios where this interaction took place. Through it all, her mouth kept running. I would pause momentarily to allow her to finish her thoughts, but that train never stopped.
A snippet of our conversation went something like this:
Gertrude: I just don’t understand why all they want is to have sex with me.
Me: How do you know that is what they want?
Gertrude: Because they say that within the first few minutes of meeting me.
Me: What?! Where are you meeting these “Christian” guys?
Gertrude: At the new social hotspot, the “Dew-Drop-In Night Club.”
Me: I’m beginning to see the problem. What were you doing there? It could be that the people there may not be what you are looking for —
Gertrude (interrupting): Stop judging me! I have every right to go wherever I want! It’s a fine place – here, you want to see some pics from my phone?
Me: Wow! Looks like a crazy place with a whole lot going on. What is that you are wearing – or almost wearing?
Gertrude: See what I mean? You’re judging me again! That’s the latest outfit I just bought. I should be able to wear what I want to look my best when I go out. I think it accentuates my best qualities.
Me: Umm, you may be sending the wrong signals with that outfit and being in that place. If you are looking for true Christian guys who will treat you respectfully, I might suggest —
Gertrude (interrupting): Just like everyone else, now you’re trying to control my life. What is it with guys like you? When I ask your opinion, you always judge me and try to tell me how to live my life!
Not once did her ears or heart engage. She was listening with her mouth. It took much restraint to stop myself from shouting, “Stop yourself, shut up, and listen!” Instead, I just shook my head and ended the conversation.
When people share their wisdom or counsel, we owe it to ourselves to hear them out. We may or may not agree with everything they have to say, but they deserve our attentiveness to their thoughts and experience. We just might learn something new.
Here are some tips to avoid being “Gertrude-the-Mouth-Listener:”
- Force your mouth closed. Don’t open it until or unless you are asked a clarifying question or the person has finished.
- Focus on listening – truly hear and consider what is being said. If you’re not willing to listen or improve your situation, then you are not seeking advice; you are simply voicing your displeasure.
- Open your mind and heart. If you’re talking, you’re not learning anything new. By listening and allowing the message to impact your heart and mind, you make what is shared meaningful to you.
- Allow the Holy Spirit to use the shared insight to minister to the core issue in your life. What you may be focused on could be merely a symptom. Someone else may see what is in your blind spot.
- If something useful is shared, apply it. If not, respectfully thank the speaker.
Lord, help us be slow to speak, but quick to listen with our ears, minds and hearts – never our mouths.