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June 21, 2015

Do people really listen?  One of life's greatest frustrations occurs while speaking with someone who really doesn't care about anything we're saying.  Their mannerisms and responses reveal a mind in "never-never-land," unfocused on what we're saying.
Oftentimes we find ourselves listening with the goal of responding, of shaping our conversation, in order to emphasize our viewpoint.  Often in conversation the communication of our own thoughts is more important to us than being impressed by the thoughts, emotions, and concerns of others.
People are generally not good listeners.  And sadly, when we fail at listening we also fail at meeting the needs of the one speaking.  If we do not listen to the needs of the one speaking how can we meet those needs?  To really listen to someone means setting aside our own self-interests and to completely focus on the needs of the one speaking.  As someone has said, "The best way to begin listening is to stop talking."
Paul gives us the goal of good communication:  "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear"  (Ephesians 4:29).
What would be the change in our conversation if our goal was to benefit others?  Consider a recent conversation you may have had with someone at work, at church, a stranger, your spouse, a friend, your child.  How did they benefit from speaking to you?  How often do our conversations abound in surface talk, nagging, the silent treatment, full scale war, empty flattery, and cold logic.  What is the benefit of this?  What is the cost to our selves, our marriages, the church, and to our witness of Jesus Christ?
Can we challenge ourselves to do those things which will benefit others?  To seek to hear the needs of others and then to allow God to lead us in response?