The Art Of Listening Intentionally
Many people can quote the above scripture by second nature. Even people who are not deeply invested in spiritual life can quote this scripture. “The steps of a good man are ordered by God!” What a statement of instruction and direction. The scripture admonishes humanity to do good in order to have God ordered steps. Or, some may interpret the scripture as saying that when God orders your steps, it makes you a good person. Either way, my question is, how can I allow God to order my steps if I don’t know where God is telling me to step? How can I know where God is leading my steps if I am not intentionally listening for the voice of God? Here lies our tension.
Listening, as simple as the task may sound, is actually a complex web of intentionality. The contention, amongst most people, is that listening is easy and most people honestly believe they are decent listeners. The reality of the matter is that most people are poor listeners and do not know it because most of us are never formally trained to listen. There is an art to listening that if learned and implemented, can help one bridge and build relationships that are healthy, honest, and meaningful with God and neighbor.
Michael P. Nichols, author of the acclaimed text The Lost Art of Listening unearths the manner in which listening is a skill and an art that can be used to empower someone’s social and emotional status, or could just as easily depress and emotionally frustrate a person if not properlyenacted. Nichols wrote, “Being listened to means that we are taken seriously, that our ideas and feelings are known and ultimately that what we have to say matters.” I believe this is the sum total of what Nichols is trying to say in the book. This is how important listening is, because one’s life validation is contingent upon those who listen to him/her. For Nichols, listening is a mechanism that produces self worth, for we all have things that we wish to share at some point or another and the joy within our willingness to share relies heavily on the willingness for someone to listen to us with an open and mutually interested ear.
Beloved, what I am trying to help you see is that it is not enough to simply hear a person, because hearing someone does not necessarily require a reciprocated interest. Rather, we must become empathetic listeners. This kind of listener knows the value in standing with a person and listening in a way that helps you empathize with their plight. Is this not what the Lord does for us? Aren’t we privileged to have a God that stands with us during our most difficult times; who willingly and intentionally listens to our complaints and cries for deliverance? This is the same God that if you take time to INTENTIONALLY listen to Him, you’ll inherit ordered steps! Create a habit of intentional listening, and your ears will be opened to new sounds, new songs and new success!