If you look around in our culture today, we are consumed with arguments and divisions. Whether it be COVID, #churchtoo, BLM, doctrinal differences, CRT, or a whole other variety of hot topics, we are arguing with one another at an ever-progressing pace.
Some families and churches are also consumed with divisive spirit. You may feel overwhelmed when thinking about what can change this ugly dynamic.
The Bible gives us one simple answer to move closer together and begin to resolve division: Loving Listening.
Cultivating a heart of love towards others and learning to listen well are hard but necessary components of any relationship that lasts. If we choose loving listening, we can begin to heal just about any division.
Several decades ago, counselor and author David Augsburger wrote “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
“Loving Listening” is a critical discipline to grow any important relationship. The book of Proverbs gives us the following four results of loving listening.
1. Listeners love well – Proverbs 25:11-12, 15
Those who practice loving listening bring tremendous value to those around them. Like a precious piece of jewelry that adorns a beautiful bride, those who lovingly listen are able to bring the right words at the right time.
Additionally, patient listening is more impressive to a leader than polished opinions and has a greater effect. When you practice loving listening, you convey love just by carefully ensuring that you have taken the time to understand.
If there are people in your life who don’t feel loved by you, you can change that by simply disciplining yourself to state your opinions less and listen more fully to what others have to say.
2. Listeners lead well – Proverbs 15:31-32
Sometimes we don’t like to listen because we don’t like what we are about to hear. Perhaps the words come in too fast, too harsh, too distorted, or too critical, and we determine that the method nullifies the message.
Loving listeners are willing to hear people they disagree with without punishing their difference of opinion. You may think that trust is what they need, but love is what motivates people to reconsider their long-held stances.
If you want to impact others and lead them well, you have to understand where they are at so you can take them where they need to go. Leaders must be listeners, and they must be willing to hear criticism without turning on the messenger.
3. Listeners understand well – Proverbs 18:2
Do you prefer to listen or to talk? We all have different personalities, but loving listening isn’t natural to any of us. It requires spirit-filled patience, self-control, and kindness.
However, choosing not to listen and only to speak will make us seem foolish to our conversation partner. We will misrepresent and fail to understand where the other side is coming from.
Loving Listeners are people who grow in understanding because they have taken the time to shut their mouths and open their ears. There is no understanding without this discipline that goes very deep. At best, we will hear the big ideas but miss the finer details which may make all the difference in how well healing takes place.
4. Listeners comfort well – Proverbs 16:24
Conflict is painful. We all agree with that, but often don’t know how to change the current we are swimming in.
Do you know that choosing to embrace loving listening will help your words be received with grace instead of skepticism?
The same exact sentence can be taken in two different ways depending on the heart attitude of the hearer. If you have practiced loving listening, your words are far more likely to bring about a healthy and positive response.
While you can’t control the other party’s attitude, you can create an atmosphere of sincerity and kindness by developing the skill of loving listening. Can you empathize with your enemy and their pain? Jesus calls us to love our enemies, and we can start with loving listening.
*In Part 2, we will look at Proverbs’ four warnings about failing to listen.
 Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard