For about 10 days now, I’ve been wrestling with the worst cold of my life, including my first ear infection in about 50 years. To say that it has affected my hearing would be a gross understatement. My wife has threatened to hurt me if I ask one more time, “What did you say?”
As a preacher, I talk for a living. A great deal of my time and energy goes into preparing messages for people to hear. Honestly, I like to talk. I’m afraid I fall under the category of people who like the sound of their own voice. Of course, my job involves listening too, but I tend to do a lot more talking than listening.
My cold started with a horrible sore throat that shut my overactive mouth down for about three days. It hurt to talk, so I didn’t. But I soon went from not being able to speak to not being able to hear.
Here are some things I learned through all of this:
If I had to choose, I’d choose hearing over talking. I know, I was surprised by this insight too. Perhaps the best part of this sickness has been what I’ve learned about listening.
Listening is the best way to learn. Nobody gets smarter or wiser by talking! Talking a lot might make us feel or look smart, but listening is the only way we truly can grow.
Listening communicates value to those in my life. I can tell people I love them (and that’s good), but listening says it better. Listening to someone and hearing his or her heart says, “You matter to me. You are important in my life.”
Listening is a selfless act; talking tends to be all about me. It takes effort to hear and understand what someone is saying. It takes patience to not interrupt. All too often, instead of fully being present while someone is talking, I am thinking about what I want to say or what I’d rather be doing. Listening is always self-sacrificing and otherly.
Listening is the pathway to intimacy. When I hear someone’s heart and connect with his or her soul by listening, I am drawn into a deeper and more meaningful relationship. Of course, two-way communication is critical to intimacy, but it’s best to listen first.
King Solomon once wrote: “…the wise listen and add to their learning…” and for anyone “to answer before listening is shameful” (Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 18:13).
James gave this advice: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Not being able to hear very well has reminded me of the value of listening. Maybe, as the saying goes, there is a reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth.
Kurt W. Bubna published his first book, “Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot,” with Tyndale in 2013. He has recently published “Mr. & Mrs.: How to Thrive in Perfectly Imperfect Marriage” and two other books. Bubna is an active blogger, itinerate speaker, regular radio and television personality, and the Senior Pastor of Eastpoint Church, a large non-denominational congregation in Spokane Valley, Wash. He and his wife, Laura, have been married for nearly 40 years and have four grown children and six grandchildren.