Think about the people in your life that you enjoy spending time with. Not the ones you HAVE to spend time with, but the folks whose company you enjoy. What is it that makes hanging out with them enjoyable? What draws you to them, what attracts you to spend time with them?
For me, the people that I choose to be around are people who make me a better person. They make me laugh, they make me think, and they draw out the best of me. When I get done being around them, not only do I leave feeling good about them, but I feel good about myself, and I look forward to the next time we get to hang out.
Some of my favorite people are smart, some are smart alecks. Some are thinkers, some are dreamers, and some think they are dreamers. Some are quiet, some loud, and some are verbal snipers, hiding in the conversation waiting for the perfect time to fire a zinger that makes everyone stop and laugh.
But the common trait among all of my favorite people is this: they are all good listeners. As much or as little as they talk, they all take the time to listen to what's going on around them, whether that is listening to the news, or asking about my life. They know what makes me laugh because they know me. They know what will engage me in a deep conversation or a friendly argument about my favorite sports because they listen.
I'm guessing that the people you thought of when I asked about your favorite people are probably good listeners, too. And whether they are or are not, you either have good listeners in your life or you wish you did. We all do. It's an important skill, one that doesn't get enough attention in our "yell first, ask-no-questions-later" world of talking heads on TV. This election season, again we see political ads that are intent on shouting down the opponent rather than lifting up the issues or presenting a positive alternative.
But what if we took to time to listen instead? I believe the entire culture we live in would benefit. We would have less anger and more understanding, fewer arguments and more conversations, more encouragement and less frustration. James 1:19-20 says, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." Listening before we speak, understanding before we make ourselves understood, leads to a much more effective relationship with people, and can help head off the anger that so easily turns into problems between us and others as well as between us and God.
So my suggestion this week: spend a little time practicing your listening skills. And if you have good listeners in your life, let them know that you appreciate how they encourage you with their ears.
Pastor Bill McCready of LifePoint Church is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers' Association.