My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. —James 1:19–20
“And what big ears you have, Grandma!” said Little Red Riding Hood to the wolf who was dressed in Granny’s nightgown. “All the better to hear you with, my dear,” responded the wolf, unconscious of the biblical framework that supported his response: “Everyone should be quick to listen,” the apostle James would have said to the girl in the red cape.
People who are hearing–impaired—folks for whom listening is something to be longed for—have taught us a lot about listening. Those who are skilled at lip reading have taught me to listen with my eyes, not with my big ears—with apologies to the wolf.
What’s the lesson here? If you’re going to hear, you’re going to have to watch. Listening is something you do with your eyes, not your big ears…sorry again, Mr. Wolf. It’s what James said to us in these verses.
Now, here’s a scenario that isn’t quite as funny. Your child is desperate to talk to someone—anyone who will listen. His struggle with the incredible pressure of temptation—cheating, drugs, sex, the internet—is about all he can stand. He’s about to explode with the conflict of what he wants to do and what he knows that he ought to do. Should I talk to my dad? he wonders. Will he have time for me? Will he really listen to me, or will he lay one more of his brilliant speeches on me? Will he pay attention to how I’m feeling, or will he be checking his cell phone for a message?
If you were your child, would you pour your heart out to you? Would you have any confidence that your words were truly heard—that there was focused attention and empathy? Or would you take all of this stuff to your buddies at school…other 16–year–olds who may have stupid advice, but who would at least listen?
You and I have “nice big ears.” We have no choice but to use them. How do we get the most out of our ears? We use our eyes. And what do we get for all this? Less embarrassment and anger…more peace.
Quit scanning the room. Stop checking your smartphone. Someone has something to say to you. Don’t miss it.
When does listening become the biggest challenge for you?
Excerpted from the NIV Dad’s Devotional Bible.