By Kristine Brown, Crosswalk.com
I’ve discovered my most repeated prayer request is for God to mold me into the best wife and mom I can be. Truthfully, it’s the area where I need the most help.
I want to be a good wife, the kind described in Proverbs 31. I want to be a good mom, too. But time and time again I feel like I’m fumbling through, messing up, or making more mistakes than I can count.
I’m a get-things-done kind of girl. When I see an area that needs work, I get busy. This includes my own spiritual growth, as well.
But all my efforts to improve only lead to exhaustion and burnout. Recently I’ve learned a valuable truth about all that striving. Instead of working harder to complete tasks, fix things, and be better, all I really need to do is learn how to listen.
Thankfully, God is answering my prayer by helping me grow in areas where I need to become more like Him. He is teaching me how to listen well.
God’s Word is counter to my tendency to do things in my own strength. Instead of requiring me to go go go, His Word encourages me to be still and listen.
James 1:19 (ESV) says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…”
When I learn to quiet distractions and listen to God’s instruction, I will in turn become the listener my family needs. Here are a few ways we can learn to be “quick to listen” with our family
1. Resist the Urge to Interrupt
Any parent of teens knows the angst of trying to pull information out of our kids. Our attempts at having conversations that last more than 30 seconds prove futile, and we end up sounding like we’re nagging with repeated questions.
“How was your day?” Fine. “How was school?” Fine. Anything exciting happen?” No. Until finally frustrations rise and our teens plead with us to stop asking so many questions!
We hear the benefit of keeping lines of communication open. We want our kids to come to us with their problems and trust us with their deepest thoughts. So what do we do when they just don’t want to talk?
The next time you’re talking with your child, conduct this little experiment. Be aware of your habits. Are you letting them direct the conversation? Or are you interrupting with questions and comments, in an attempt to drive the conversation forward?
Sometimes in our excitement over having a few minutes of one-on-one time with our kids, we overcompensate by pushing too hard.
Instead, let’s resist the urge to interrupt and let the words flow naturally. We will create a more welcoming atmosphere by simply stopping ourselves when we want to speak.
2. Resist the Need to Interject
My young adult son was explaining his views on a political situation he’d read about online. We engaged in what I felt was a fruitful conversation, sharing our thoughts and coming up with possible resolutions. Then I noticed something. My son ended the conversation with these two words:
After that day, I listened even more closely. I realized he said those two words more and more often. In fact, I heard the words, “You’re right,” in almost every conversation we had. I felt a heaviness settle into my heart as I realized I hadn’t really been listening at all. I had been interjecting my opinion.
Chances are at some point, we will have differing opinions with our spouses, grown children, or other family members. God created us all unique, and He didn’t expect us to all conform to the same way of thinking.
But in our longing to teach our kids about biblical principles and the difference between right and wrong, we may be unknowingly imposing our will.
For our family to be open to hearing what we have to say, we must also keep our hearts and minds open to listen. How about adding these four words to our vocabulary, “What do you think?”
We may not want to hear what they have to say, but we can resist the need to interject. Listening with a closed mouth and attentive spirit will strengthen our relationship and help us connect with our family on a deeper level.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Emma Bauso
3. Resist the Desire to Offer Advice
One day I received an email with concerns about something related to my ministry. I composed a response, then read it to my husband to get his opinion. I valued his thoughts and wanted to make sure I responded with love and gentleness, instead of sounding defensive. When I finished reading my email aloud to him, I waited for his reaction.
Without even looking up, he turned and walked out of the room. I was dumbfounded. Was the email really that bad? When I followed him into the other room and questioned him, his response caused me to giggle.
He said, “I didn’t know if this was one of those times when you want my advice, or those other times when you just want me to listen.”
I guess I didn’t make my needs clear! The simple exchange with my spouse that day spoke volumes about my communication skills. I held expectations going into conversations with him. As a good husband, he was aware of my needs, but unfortunately, he was afraid to respond the wrong way.
I’ve never been one to shy away from offering advice. Whether it’s to my husband, kids, or anyone else who comes to me with a problem. But I’ve discovered the wisdom my husband already knew.
Sometimes giving advice isn’t what others need from us. When our loved ones come to us to talk, let’s resist the desire to offer advice and instead be quick to listen.
An offer to pray for them and be a good listener will carry more value than any advice we have to give.
4. Resist the Compulsion to Overreact
A few years ago, we walked through a difficult season with one of our kids. By the time we became aware of the situation, things had escalated.
I wondered why our child hadn’t come to us sooner. Hadn’t we let our kids know they could come to us about anything? Hadn’t we created our home to be a safe place for them?
I asked God to search my heart and reveal any wrong spirit within me. That’s when I realized a bad habit I had developed as a mom.
Yes, I had told my kids they could come to me about anything. But when they did, even the smallest thing would set my emotions into high gear. I had become prone to overreacting.
When James offered his encouragement to the church, he emphasized the importance of meekness and humility. And with that, he included two details to help us be better listeners. The first is to be “slow to speak.” And the second, to be “slow to anger.”
Listening well doesn’t just mean sealing our lips shut. It also means having a gentle heart toward others.
Sometimes I forget my kids are independent souls trying to navigate their way through a strange and overwhelming world. They will have problems, but my job is not to lash out in anger because I expect more from them.
My job is to open my arms with compassion and be that safe place for them to land. My job is to love them like Jesus does.
So when our kids tell us things that shock or frustrate us, let’s resist the compulsion to overreact. Instead, let’s offer the safety and love they long for
Being “quick to listen” takes practice. In my desire for change, I’ve learned that quieting my mind and focusing on God’s Word helps strengthen my listening skills.
Being a good listener is hard, but with the help of the Holy Spirit and our commitment, we can become the quick listeners our family needs.
Discover more parenting resources from Kristine Brown’s Life Enrichment Library. You’ll also find weekly encouragement to help you “become more than yourself through God’s Word” at her website, kristinebrown.net. Kristine is the author of the devotional for teen girls, Over It. Trading Comparison for the True Me. For more information about the book, follow Kristine on Facebook.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Dakota Corbin