My friend Stephen Davey tells the story of the husband who, knowing his wife’s birthday was just around the corner, asked her with some attempted subtlety, “Honey, if you could have one wish, what would you want?” She thought for a moment, then laughed and said, “I would love to be eight again.”
On the morning of her birthday, he woke her up and off they went to a nearby Waffle House for breakfast. After a huge waffle dripping with strawberries and whipped cream, they headed to the local theme park. Over the course of the day the husband made sure that no ride was missed, and no excitement spared. Five hours later they exited the park, heads still spinning, stomachs still churning, but now on their way to McDonalds where her husband proceeded to order a Big Mac with fries and a thick chocolate milkshake for his birthday girl. To round off the evening he plopped down money for the latest Disney animated movie, and the purchase of popcorn, an array of candies, and a large Pepsi. Just another part of a day full of fabulous eight-year-old adventures.
Later that night the birthday girl along with her husband arrived home and collapsed into bed. Dying to know if his wife enjoyed the day the husband softly whispered across the pillows, “Well, how did you like being eight again?” One eye opened in surprise as she moaned, “I meant my dress size.”
Funny, but what is not so funny is the hurt, disrespect, and lack of love people feel when we fail to listen to them. We need to be reminded that good communication always starts when someone stops talking. Listening well is the first and most important step on the road to good communication. The Bible agrees, encouraging us to be swift to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19). People need and deserve to be heard, but they will not be heard by people who like to hear themselves talk.
The wisdom of listening is a large theme in the book of Proverbs. While Proverbs teaches us how use our mouth as a “tree of life,” it is also quick to root good communication in listening. According to Proverbs, talking too much usually leads to sin and embarrassment (Prov. 10:8, 19, 12:18; 18:2; 21:23). Proverbs also notes that listening increases knowledge and decreases misunderstanding (Prov. 1:5; 17:27-28; 18:13, 15). Read Proverbs and you will discover listening is a vital means of deepening conversation (Prov. 20:5). Proverbs certainly underscores the wisdom in the observation that God has given us two ears and one mouth. God intends for us to listen more than talk.
Let us communicate better by listening more. Let us value others by valuing what they have to say. And let us remember that listening is more than not talking, and it is more than hearing. It is the hard work of understanding what the other person is saying, why they are saying it, and what they are waiting to hear from us. It is also means listening for what they are saying by what they are not saying.
For the good of all let us be more ear than mouth!