The Secret to Being a Good Listener

Listening well is not my strong suit. It’s a professional requirement, but it doesn’t come easy. Whether at work or with friends, my natural bent is not steering me toward any Listener of the Year awards.

Speaking of friends, we have one who is a really good listener so I’ve tried to follow her model. Here’s what I saw her do once when my wife was telling her about a particularly difficult day:

“Oh yes, that’s hard … Hmmm … Wow, what did you say next? … And then what happened? … I’m so sorry to hear that … Oh yes, that’s hard … Hmmm … Wow, what did you say next … [etc.] …”

At least that’s how it sounded to me. So I tried doing that next chance I had.

How did that go again? “Oh yes, that’s hard … Hmmm … Wow, what did you say next? … I’m so sorry that happened … Oh yes, that’s hard … Hmmm …”

It sounded stiff to me, but I kept at it and after a while it wasn’t so stiff. In fact, I started to sound – to myself anyway – as if I was actually engaging with the person talking to me. And the more I modeled my friend’s sincere behavior, the more sincere I got in being able to listen well. I still probably won’t win any awards, but I’m better at it than I used to be.

God’s Modeling

We’re clay. You knew that right? God’s the potter and we’re the clay and he gets to decide what he’s making us into.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8.)

So what does that mean for God’s people under the New Covenant? It means being modeled on Christ himself:

We all … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18.)

This modeling, though, is not of our own doing, but is the work of God himself, because:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6.)

God models clay still, and he won’t stop working on us until he’s completed that work.

Been Made Brand New

The great thing about God’s eternity is that we are not only being made new, but we are already made new, righteously new.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here! … God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21.)

Two truths jump out at me in that passage:

  1. Because we are in Christ, we are completely new.
  2. Because of what Christ has completely done, we have become the righteousness of God.

God, the master potter, models his clay perfectly well. What a modeling job.

I’m glad I’m in the Potter’s hands.

***

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6 Responses to The Secret to Being a Good Listener

  1. Pastor Bob says:

    WOW!
    Blessings and thanks for sharing useful insights!

  2. Laura Droege says:

    Great post. I love how God uses such beautiful metaphors to show his relationship to us; I may not always understand deep theological concepts, but I can imagine the hands of God shaping me because I’ve seen potters and clay. I’ve also played with Play-Doh, laughed at how awful my “creation” is compared with my model, and now have greater awe of God modeling us perfectly! (This isn’t totally on point, but after reading yesterday’s post, I’m wondering if the CBMW considers Play-Doh to be a gendered toy?)

    • Tim says:

      If they did, I imagine it would be in the boys’ section for them, since boys are hard-wired to be engineers and builders according to them, right?

  3. Jeannie says:

    I like your thoughts about listening, Tim. We can (often to a fairly significant extent) change ourselves to become more like what we would like to be. But ultimately the deeper change comes from God.

    • Tim says:

      Good listening is a skill that comes easier to some people than others, so I definitely had to work on developing my abilities there. I’m glad that when it comes to righteousness God is the one who is working in me to complete his good work.

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