Listening is important. It can make a great difference when we give people time and space to talk. I have valued the times when others have truly listened to me.
But how often do we actually listen?
The New Testament challenges us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Listening can be transformative, allowing people to processes their experiences and emotions, but it is also draining and time consuming. It is an activity that we must choose to do and a skill that we can develop.
At this time of year, we have had and will have the opportunity to reflect on black history, the sacrifices of those who have fought in wars and give time to remember our loved ones who have died. It can be challenging hearing stories that are traumatic and different from our own experiences. But it is important that we take time to pause and listen to others, as giving space to hear different voices shows that we value individuals, allows us to fully understand the climate that we are living in and helps us to make better informed decisions about the actions that we take.
But we also live in a culture which is increasingly becoming more polarised around political, moral, social and spiritual issues, impacted by issues of fake news, cancel culture and echo chambers.
Listening is at its hardest when we hear things that we don’t agree with. If we ignore the views and realities of others, then divisions only deepen and in one form or another, people get hurt. One of the most radical things that we can do is to listen to someone that we do not agree with.
We need to listen, so that we show respect to others, honouring God’s command to love others
We need to listen, so that we are fully aware of the situation that we are in, hearing the voices of others.
We need to listen, so that we can effectively respond to or challenge what others have said.
We need to listen, so that we can learn from past mistakes and learn more about current problems.
We need to listen, so that we can grow and develop.
I need to listen more and be slower to speak.