Good listening takes effort. Notice the traits of the people whom you enjoy talking to, the good listeners. They show their interest with their eyes, posture, and the ways they react. It’s a sort of indescribable mood that says, I enjoy listening to you. You’re important to me. A calmness and patience about them tells you, Take your time. I have nothing more vital to do at the moment than to hear what you have to say.
Listening is one way to better fulfill the “law of Christ,” which the Bible sums up as “loving your neighbor as yourself.”1 By listening to others in order to understand them, we are doing God’s work with a form of God’s love.
Take a lesson from Jesus. When you take your problems to Him in prayer, does He just listen for a moment and then interrupt? Rarely. He’s always there, always available, and always ready to hear you out—to listen to your side of the story. He gets down on your level. He listens carefully to your words, but He also hears the muffled cries of your heart. You know He understands.
Jesus looks at your motives, not at whatever mistakes or messes you may have made. He’s never harsh or condemning. He always holds out mercy and hope and forgiveness. No matter how far you’ve strayed, He never stops loving you.
Listening—really listening—conveys love. It conveys not only your love, but also the Lord’s love for the person, which is unconditional, forever, and perfect in every way. Let others see Jesus in you by trying to be as loving a listener as He is, and you won’t have a hard time winning their hearts to Him.
Listening also has this important side effect: Once you’ve shown yourself to be a good listener, others are more likely to be more interested in and receptive to what you have to say when it’s your turn to talk. They’ll be less defensive and more open to new ideas and views, and they will be more understanding themselves.
Listening is a talent that can be cultivated. It begins with a sincere desire to understand others in order to better love and help them. Ask Jesus for the gift of empathy, and then ask Him to help you learn to put it to good use helping others and loving them into His heavenly kingdom.