Two Ears, One Mouth

by | Jan 6, 2020

Two Ears, One Mouth

Paul Richardson

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me …” John 10:27

I’m an educator, and educators love to talk. We love to explain almost anything. Conversely, we tend to struggle with listening. Have you ever met someone, heard their name, then forgot it within seconds? I confess that this is a habitual weakness of mine. In the past, I laughed it off as forgetfulness. But to be honest there’s no problem with my memory. The real problem is that I’m a selective listener and this is no laughing matter. Being a selective listener is a character flaw, and most selective listeners don’t realize how much this limits us. I’ve decided to change, and I’ve been working to become a skilled listener.

Skilled listeners are at a great advantage in life because they learn from various perspectives and accumulate plenty of data which informs their decisions. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” When a skilled listener is in a conversation, his mind is actively thinking What is this person saying to me? What is his perspective? What does he want me to do? Do his tone and body language provide any extra clues?

There’s an old saying, “There’s a reason God gave us two ears and only one mouth.” The quest to limit my words and be a better listener is transforming me into a more relevant teacher. Skilled listeners enjoy meetings or conversations where new or unfamiliar topics are being discussed. They lean in to new information. At every opportunity they are thinking, “Let’s see what God wants to teach me.” They believe that they can learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime.” Skilled listeners repeat back to you what they think you are trying to say. They don’t rush an answer. You might hear them say, “Let me think about this for a few days.”

On 2019 I’ve been listening to my students more than ever before. By providing kids with a safe zone to share their experiences, dreams, and fears, my knowledge of them has grown deeper and more complex. I’ve been amazed at how many of them shoulder unbelievable burdens. They articulate loneliness and isolation. I’m surprised to hear what kinds of things cause them to lose sleep or worry.

Skilled listeners are open minded. Open minded people explore, they enjoy travelling and hearing new ideas. They like having friends who think differently than them. They desire to learn about a great variety of subjects. They carefully consider different perspectives. They tend to be interesting when you talk to them.

In my role with Mustard Seed, I frequently travel to various places where we are serving children through Christian education. Usually I go as a leader. I have a vision for what I want to accomplish and I carry a detailed agenda. But this year my agenda is to listen. Ironically this is making me into a much better leader.

Finally, as we enter 2020, let’s be aware that God is always communicating. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me …” Are you listening to God’s voice today? If you can’t hear him, perhaps, for whatever reason, your heart has become a selective listener. Could it be those voices of fear, or worry, or simply the chaos of a busy life are drowning out the voice of your Good Shepherd? Let’s do this starting now; when we pray let’s not just talk at God, but wait in silence listening for what He wants to say.