I want people to feel known and God to be glorified.
God has gifted me in counseling and discipleship. My heart swells with joy when I’m sitting with someone one-on-one listening to their story and building them up with truth. For some, I know that hearing the ins, outs, ups, and downs of the lives of others can be exhausting. It’s not for everyone, and I understand! I’ve learned a few things, however, that I think everyone can put into practice–things our Wonderful Counselor does for us that we can pursue with His help.
Our Father is an expert listener.
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 116:2 (NIV)
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
Psalm 34:15 (ESV)
God invites us to talk with Him. We are free to pour out our thoughts and desires before Him. He already knows even the smallest details about us, and still He desires to hear our hearts. How incredible!
None of us can be perfect listeners, but I’d even go as far to say that many of us have lost the art of listening. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
I’ve met a lot of “30-Second Listeners” as I like to call them. You can probably infer from the name that these individuals only give you about 30 seconds of true listening time before their eyes begin to glaze over. They might even ask you a question and STILL begin to look disinterested before you’re finished answering.
Or there’s the “Halfway Listeners” who give you more time to talk, but are busy with other things as they do so. I’m guilty here! We live in a fast-paced world, and slowing down to give someone all our attention doesn’t seem efficient when we have a long to-do list.
God tells us to cast ALL our cares on Him, no matter how long it takes. He turns His face toward us in full attention as described in the Psalms. He’ll help us do the same for others, and I encourage you to evaluate this area in your own life.
Listening and speaking truth go hand in hand.
We also know that God speaks, yes? His Word was freely given to us to direct our paths and lead us in joy and holiness. He listens with compassion and speaks with wisdom.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence
2 Peter 1:3 (ESV)
We need BOTH in order to serve others well.
Giving a friend the space to share their thoughts, fears, and struggles can be helpful in allowing them to verbally process. With little nods and focused attention, we let them know that we care deeply. But when we listen without speaking truth in return, our conversations are not edifying. If we leave them in this vulnerable space and fail to provide truth, we do them a disservice.
And if we speak truth without listening first, it can be even more dangerous. When a person shares a lie they’re believing, a frustration, or even an alarming struggle with sin, we cannot leap out of our chairs to say, “That’s not true! Here’s what is!” even if it seems obvious to us. There are a few things I encourage you to do first:
- Allow them to explain the whole story. Ask them a question or two. You might be filling in the gaps without realizing, and you can’t speak truth well until you understand the heart of the issue.
- Tell about any similar experience from your own life. When someone has shared, it’s comforting to have the other person be vulnerable in return.
- Pray. Right then and there, ask God what He would say to this person. He will help you!
Whether you’re passionate about counseling or a newbie, I hope this post gives you a practical starting point. Let me know your thoughts in the comments: do you tend to be a natural listener or does speaking truth come easily?