Last month, we covered how listening was an important part of our evangelism. Without it we will miss out on a majority of the opportunities God gives us to plant the Gospel firmly in the heart of people. Some people may not directly say they’re interested in what you have to say, but what they say cries out for information and we have to learn to read between the lines. With others we can draw them into conversation just by paying attention to what they’re saying.
This month, I’d like to cover a little closer to home on areas we deal with often and yet — because we feel its not “out there” in the lost world — we don’t always seem to put enough interest or importance to it. I’m talking about having a listening ear with those we love.
Family members tend to tell a story by how we act and sometimes the things we say. My son says, “Dad when are we going to play together?” “Dad, when are we going out again?” “Dad, I was waiting for you to get home today.” This spells out for me that my son needs my time — and I better make it available to him. When I push aside everything and take that time, I see a happy boy who knows his dad loves him.
The same with my daughter. When she begins to get involved in activities that are not healthy for her and I don’t say anything, it tells her, “Dad doesn’t really care if I do this or get involved with this group.” But if I step in and say, “You cannot do this, I am concerned about this kid or this phone call, or this activity and I’m asking that you change,” the message comes across that Dad cares enough to give her direction. But I wouldn’t know what they’re going through unless I’m listening to their life. With all that happens to those I love, I care enough to be involved in their lives and listen to warning signs and not allow them to get out of control.
A husband and wife has needs and build one another up. For many reasons, sometimes we fail to relay those needs to each other, but in so many ways we relay the message and hope the other person picks it up — and it doesn’t always happen. Then, we struggle unnecessarily. Each of us needs to respond to each other, especially when God has shown there’s a lack that needs our attention. We need to fill in the gap and help bring fulfillment, even if it tends to make us vulnerable.
Communication is a key factor in everything we do, but communication can be misused like everything else. I’m generally a positive person and believe God can do whatever He desires, no matter how big or small. When all my friends are like-minded and we constantly encourage one another, we grow. However, when we get around a negative talker, watch the countenance fall. The group begins to part and people actually run from that person. We don’t want to be around them. Constant negativism and a “nagger” will eventually tear you down.
In a marriage, one person will communicate criticism, complaining, nagging, and unhappiness until the other one runs. Knowing you cannot run too far, you learn to block it out. Erase it. Tune it out, which then causes you to stop listening as you should and you are then looked at as one who ignores the other. The desire is not to ignore, but to listen to interact. The purpose of interaction is to build one another up, which makes listening easy and pleasurable. We need to learn to earn the right to be heard. I have something to say and I want others to listen to me, but like Paul said in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
This is no different within a family. We need to hear the heartbeat of the other people within home. Let’s not be guilty of constant negativism, where the dog won’t even come around. Listening is an art that we master. We can learn to tune out certain things and take in others. Lord, help us to tune in to you and those you’ve given to us and be effective and building one another up.
George Elias of Poway directs Powerful Witness Ministries