Sunday, November 18, 2007

two ears, one mouth

I heard somewhere that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen more than we speak. That's not exactly in the Bible, but this is:
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
James 1:19-20
Have you ever noticed someone not really listening to you, but rather waiting for their turn to speak? Or have you ever been "listening" to someone, but actually formulating what you were going to say next, or wishing they would finish so you could get your turn?

For me it's yes on both counts. I can't do much about the first one, but I can about the second. It's not easy, though!

There's that prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi, which includes this:
O, Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek ... to be understood as to understand...
Of course he prayed that because he needed help from the Lord; it's not an easy thing. If it were easy, why pray it -- and why would it resonate so much with us centuries later?

So then, to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, as James says -- this is a good thing, but we need help -- which calls for prayer. Besides praying, we can also try to be aware. (We can pray for help in that, too: "Lord, help me to be aware of it when I'm not really listening." He is delighted to help with that!) And suppose I do become aware of when I'm not really listening... what then? I've got to surrender my desire to be understood. I've got to crucify the demand that others listen to me. I've got to become less selfish, in other words.

Yow -- yet more prayer needed for that one! Fortunately, what's impossible for a man is no problem for our Lord.

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