A recent cold started with a horrible sore throat. It hurt to talk, so I didn’t. As a result, my overactive mouth got shut down for a couple of days.
As a pastor, I talk for a living. Much of my time and energy goes into preparing messages for people to hear or comforting them and providing counsel.
Honestly, I like to talk, and I’m afraid I fall under the category of people who like the sound of their own voice. Of course, my job involves listening too, but I tend to do more talking than listening.
Perhaps the best part of being sick was what I learned about listening.
Here are four things I learned through my unplanned vow of silence:
1. Listening is the best way to learn.
Nobody gets smarter or wiser by talking. Talking a lot might make us feel or look smart, but listening is the only way we truly grow.
2. Listening communicates value to others.
I can tell someone I love them (and that’s good), but listening says it better. Listening to someone communicates, “You matter to me, and you are important in my life.”
3. Listening is a selfless act, while talking tends to be all about me.
It takes effort to hear and understand what someone is saying, and it takes patience not to interrupt. All too often, instead of fully being present while someone is talking, I am thinking about what I want to say. Listening is always self-sacrificing and otherly.
4. Listening is the pathway to intimacy.
I am drawn into a deeper and more meaningful relationship when I hear someone’s heart and connect with their soul by listening. Of course, two-way communication is critical to intimacy, but it’s always best to listen first.
King Solomon once wrote, “…the wise listen and add to their learning…” and for anyone “to answer before listening is shameful” (Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 18:13).
James gave this advice, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
As the saying goes, maybe there is a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth.