Ten Traits of Virtuous Listening

tiny-virtues-listeningI cannot deny that Mary chose better. She chose listening (Luke 10:38-42). Of course way too many people in ministry like to take this story and turn it into the biblical equivalent of “Why can’t you be like your sister?”  Martha was working out her faith while Mary was listening.

Being a task-oriented person myself, I can kind of relate to Martha. It takes effort to be a good listener (and not simply listen in order to problem solve or have an answer to offer). Jesus tenderly gives Martha the encouragement to make that effort. To listen while she has the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Martha can serve Christ forever, but listening to Him face-to-face? After He ascends to heaven, those opportunities vanish. Mary chose to listen.  And listening was better.

Listening is one of the Tiny Virtues for Exemplary Christian Living. Most of us don’t listen well, but we would be served well by learning the virtue of listening.

We’re still magnifying the tiny virtue of friendship to see the inner workings of how to be an exemplary friend. Listening is a good friendship skill. Plenty of sources describe good listening as something like

  • Stop talking, relax and come prepared to listen.
  • Make the speaker feel comfortable by removing distractions.
  • Get your attitude right. Empathize. Be patient. Avoid prejudice and judgment.
  • Listen to the tone and ideas, not just words
  • Observe non-verbal communication

Helpful in business or in counseling, perhaps, but it does nothing to help someone distinguish good listening from bad. Good listening is not to be confused with being a “vent-recipient” as someone calls just to spew their spleen and sin over the wireless and you just simply take it in, absorbing what they have to offer. That’s what the scapegoat was for. Good listening isn’t the precursor for good gossip. And good listening isn’t buying lies out of a misguided politeness or lack of discernment.

The Bible gives us some pretty clear instruction on listening…the dos and don’ts from God’s perspective.

  1. Prioritize listening– James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
  2. Let go of pride– Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
  3. Reject your inner apathy– 1 Corinthians 12:26 “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
  4. Listen to act– Luke 11:28 Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
  5. Listen to learn–Proverbs 16:20 “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”
  6. Be cautious with secrets- Luke 12:3 “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”
  7. Don’t gossip– Proverbs 11:13 “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Proverbs 20:19 “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”
  8. Distinguish the spirit of what you’re hearing. 1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
  9. Put a stop to what is being spoken if it is ungodly or untrue. Don’t feed your mind what is evil. Ephesians 4: 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. .. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
  10. Remember to listen to Jesus and hear what He says. Matthew 13: 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: … 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Listening can make or break a friendship.  Sometimes a broken friendship among people must happen for a relationship of purity with God to continue.  One thing’s for sure, if you hear the Master’s voice, listen and obey.

Ponder today: any instance of listening in which you should have stopped and instances where you could have listened better.  Ask God to teach you to listen well.

Bible character of the day: Mary

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on September 10, 2016

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