Friday, May 8, 2015

Learning through Listening by @emilylaney

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been quick to speak and slow to listen. I’m generally an outgoing, talkative person. Awkward silence makes me uncomfortable, I’m usually sitting there, internally trying to come up with a good question to ask the other person in order to keep the conversation going. I love people, and I love meeting new people. But with that personality trait comes the risk of getting carried away with my words sometimes. There have been numerous occasions where I’ve left a conversation mentally kicking myself for things I’ve said. Or I’ve wondered incessantly about if I talked too much. It’s a difficult balance in life for sure, but it can be even more challenging when one is faced with sensitive topics and issues.

The verse at the top of this post is simple, but it packs a profound truth. Speaking without listening first can result in some negative consequences. And it reminds me of what Jesus said is the greatest commandment- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31, paraphrased by me). If we are seeking to follow God, we are listening to where the Holy Spirit is leading. If we are truly loving our neighbor, we are listening to where they are coming from and listening to what they have to say. If we are quick to speak too often, we can miss out on how we can truly love the people around us.

We never know what the person across the room or across the table from us is dealing with if we aren’t willing to listen. This is something that has really stuck with me recently. I was really burdened by everything I was seeing on the news and on social media related to race relations in our country, so I began seeking out opportunities to get to know people who are different from me, and to practice something I’m not always good at- listening. And now, I’m in a group with women from all different backgrounds, discussing cultural and spiritual issues from our own unique perspectives. We all have one thing in common- we all love Jesus. And as the body of Christ, it’s imperative that we are agents of reconciliation in all aspects of our lives.

But reconciliation doesn’t happen without listening. Friendships don’t form without listening. And following the path God has for us in this life doesn’t come without listening. It’s a lesson that’s been profound for me recently as I continue to seek out what God has for me in this life, and it’s a lesson I’m sure we all struggle with on occasion. And I know that when I choose to actively listen before speaking, I find myself in a place of greater understanding and greater empathy, which embodies the message of Jesus in many ways. 

Emily Laney is a social worker, educator, and justice seeker. She has worked with vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad and loves to help startup nonprofits reach their goals.  She is a Passion City Church door holder and leads a team of abolitionists at Not for Sale Georgia. She loves her husband Brent and their rescue pup Biscuit. Sunsets and Sushi make her happy.

You can connect with Emily on twitter @emilylaney or on her blog

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