The power that lies in listening

An open mouth to speak needs an open heart to hear. Attentive listeners are effective learners and leaders. But we are not naturally good listeners thus the timely reminder of our responsibility to choose to be silent so we can better listen. I often think the appreciation of God’s presence and our silence are what cause excellent responses to any presentations given.

The tendency is to rather be heard than to hear; to speak more than to be spoken to. But I have come to understand that this is a misplaced emphasis. No wonder the biblical advice in James 1:19-20, which says: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” May we allow God to give us the courage to shut up and listen attentively to words of wisdom from those speaking to us!

It has been wisely said that those who are attentive listen to the right stuff and hear information that affirms their life purpose. When I served as the Kenya Assemblies of God National Youth Director I often found it important to say to those I was privileged to speak to: “You are here to hear what others will need to hear through you.” A few years later I heard in a meeting a chorus that confirmed my advice: “God, our Father, we are here, Father, we are here, Father we are here, we are here for you.”

The need to listen is very important, especially in places where whatever is said blesses life. “Silence Please” is a common sign seen at the entrance of children’s home care centres, examination rooms, recording studios, counselling rooms, interview venues, or rooms/halls where decision-making is taking place.

It certainly makes sense to maintain silence in the presence of experience. It has been said that every person we meet has something we do not know thus the choice to be silent and listen. I learned a few years ago from my mentor that learners are listeners and that it is a decent thing to be silent.

Edward Gibbon wrote: “Every person who rises above the common level has received two educations, the first from his teacher, the second more personal and important from himself.” Here are some lessons I have learned over the years on silence.

  • At times choose to be silent rather than engage in a nonsense fight. (Philip Arunga)
  • Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. (Anonymous)
  • If you would have God hear you when you pray, you must hear Him when He speaks. (Rev ML Fauss)
  • Being a good listener is not an accident; you must listen with your eyes as well as your ears. (Les Giblin)
  • If speaking is already something you do well, you might choose listening as your next growth skill. (Steve Chandler)
  • Serving God is a good thing until the service becomes a distraction that pulls us away from our relationship with God. (Christy Bower)
  • Father, please keep my feet from straying, help me to listen to you and to good friends. (Anonymous)
  • God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience but shouts to us in our pain. (CS Lewis)

The writer is the senior pastor of Kenya Assemblies of God, Githurai 44, Nairobi.