Are you a good listener? I am not sure that I would know unless people tell me that I am a good listener. People don't tell me very often that I am a good listener, instead people tell me I am a good speaker. It is a very kind compliment and I treasure the encouragement after I have been privileged to give a talk about gardening or scripture (they are actually very closely connected, just read the gospels, chock full of gardening and farming insights).
My nature is to talk, to process verbally, out loud, to whomever will listen, which on the farm is primarily myself, the animals/and or plants, my family, and God. I talk to myself in the grocery store, when I am helping organize books in the church library, when I am deciding which way to go home from the feed store. Words, words, words, sounds and often fury tumble over my lips for a good portion of my waking life. And while some scientist insist that one doesn't hear people speaking in dreams, rather one simply understands what is being said, my dreams are full of speech, mine and others, regularly speaking words that I remember clearly when I wake up. I used to drive my family nuts as a kid, by subjecting them to hour long re-tellings of my vivid, conversation filled dreams. Words, words, words....
Yet I believe that listening is the root of understanding. If I don't understand then I will act without wisdom. I also believe that true listening involves putting what I hear into practice. Consider these verses, James 1:5a says if I lack wisdom I should ask God for it, implied in that instruction is that, after the question, I AM LISTENING for a response. Proverbs 13:1, a wise child heeds a father's instruction. I put what I learn into practice. James 3:17 says But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Look at that list! Pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, sincere; these are characteristics of profound, life-changing listening and wise-doing.
Listen, Jesus said in Matthew 7:24 Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. A firm foundation and deep roots are powerful images to depict a person who is unshakeable, not because they are arrogant, but because they are wise. Such wisdom is no accident, and the first step is to begin to listen.
Listening is clearly not my default, so I have learned that I need to be diligent in my listening. When I am in a group, I often make a mark on my papers to let me see how often I have spoken up. I remind myself, "Listen, ask questions, and listen to the response." When I meet someone new, I remind myself that this person has a name and a story thatI want to hear, pay attention! And I try not to interrupt, because often in my excitement, when people start talking, their insights and ideas fire me up, filling my mind with new vistas and visions. Yet I will rob them and myself if I highjack the conversation prematurely. (And if you know me well, you may be thinking, "Really, you try to listen, because golly, I've never really noticed, with all the talking." but think how much worse it might be if I wasn't trying ;) Remember every conversation is an opportunity to listen and a chance to exercise self-discipline.
Whether you are an introvert, blessed with great skills in quietness or a talker, who may have never yet really heard what someone else has to say, you will only be blessed by leaning in and listening to what God has to say through the Word and others around you.