There are two kinds of people who don’t say much: those who are quiet and those who talk a lot.
The book of Proverbs – that little book of wisdom – advises us that it is wise to hold our tongue on most occasions: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 29:20) “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23) The overall message about talking in Proverbs is that it’s better to speak less because excessive talking gets us either in trouble or reveals how much we don’t know.
But choosing words carefully isn’t enough – what we really need to do is learn to listen: “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13) “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Proverbs 19:20) The way we learn and grow is by careful listening and understanding. We can’t do that if we are the only ones doing all the talking.
People around us aren’t really desperate for hearing our opinions and thoughts on every issue. They have people talking at them all day long. What our friends and family need is someone who will listen and care. When was the last time you really just sat and listened to someone? You didn’t interrupt to tell your own story, but just let them share? You didn’t correct or shame them? You didn’t try to tell them why they are wrong? You just listened and tried to understand life from their perspective?
My sense is that most people don’t feel that they are heard. They have feelings, impressions, ideas and confusing thoughts, but there is seldom someone willing to listen. Proverbs says that ‘useless’ or ‘vain’ talking isn’t helpful – but sharing from the depth of our being is. However, we all need someone willing to hear what is being said.
Why not try to be more intentional today about listening to the people around you? You can share tomorrow – but for today, just listen.