Back in my days of teaching fundamentals of nursing, one of the basic concepts we taught our students was called “therapeutic communication.” The student learns through this process how to implement various forms of care, including assessment and patient teaching. One of the most important therapeutic communication techniques, however, is one we call “active listening.” For this type of listening, the nurse-in-training is taught to observe both the patient’s verbal and nonverbal cues, as well as to employ careful communication techniques to clarify the message being transmitted to them. Active listening requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. This is not as easy as it sounds. I wish that I could say that I do this all the time but I do not. I have learned it is easy to be distracted and to assume I understand what is said without clarification. It is almost comical sometimes to see how my husband and I do not communicate our messages very well.
As we consider listening, it is important to understand that this is a “must-know” in the life of a believer. There are numerous Bible verses about listening and hearing. This is an important concept for us. Consider the words of Matthew 17:5, “While he (Peter) was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’” These words from heaven put a cap on the Transfiguration story, in which Jesus singles Peter, James, and John out to accompany Him alone to a high mountain. In verses 3 and 4, we read that Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became bright as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. So Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here! If you want, I will make here three shelters, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’” Isn’t this typical of all of us? We are thinking the way the world thinks. We are not listening to what God is saying to us and our minds are distracted. Peter was talking at a time when he should have been listening. Can you relate? I can!
What we listen to and to whom we listen has an impact on us intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. We have choices to make about communication and these choices have positive and negative effects. As most of us are currently staying home more due to the Corona Virus, we are experiencing unprecedented opportunities for listening in a variety of formats, both in literally hearing and in reading the written word. These involve spending more time than normal in watching television, reading, and even talking to family members or friends on the telephone. We should be asking ourselves: are we making wise choices that are good for us?
What are your criteria for the choices of what/to whom you listen? Does what you listen to provide:
- instruction or guidance?
- moral or spiritual benefit?
- uplifting or encouraging words and thoughts?
If what you are listening to does not meet these criteria and you are getting upset, angry, fearful, anxious, or just not receiving any healthy benefit, I would urge you to turn it off, shut the book, or change the subject. My favorite practice from my past working experience was simply this: when the conversations got negative, I would change the subject, redirecting it to something helpful and encouraging, sometimes even to a Bible verse or a truth about God that was applicable and meaningful to me. One of the most important things we are called to do as believers is to recognize and to be on guard for what we allow into our ears. Remember Proverbs 1:5, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” James 1:19 further explains, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Being a good listener does not come naturally to us, it takes planning and wisdom. Pray for God’s guidance as you make wise choices about what you listen to and what you allow into your mind. And make your first choice to listen to God’s Word!
Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great (Luke 6:47-49).
Lord forgive me for all the time I have wasted reading and listening to things that are not beneficial. Give me the wisdom to make wise choices and to avail myself of the truly wonderful, uplifting things there are to listen to and to read. Thank you for the availability of online sermons and Christian books, for television programs that offer hope and encouragement, and–most of all–for your Word! Help me to recognize and be on the alert for unhelpful things that I hear. Remind me to daily seek you in Your Word. I know that all scripture is given and inspired by You, Lord God, and is profitable for pointing out my errors, and for correcting and training me for a life that has Your approval, that I may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). Thank you for Your Word. Fill me with your peace and joy, teach me and guide me.
In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.