The Choice to Listen

As I’ve already said, human being can reason nearly anything they want to be true. Yet people who oppose my Christian views are rarely willing to discuss their own problematic thinking, including their desires, and how their desires potentially affect their arguments.

Mary Jo Sharp – Why I Still Believe

When I finished typing the quotes I’d compiled from Why I Still Believe into one document it was three pages long, and I left out many of the quotes that I’d highlighted because of a personal story I could apply. I chose to include the quotes I thought would resonate with a broader audience.

The quote posted above is one that has hung in the air for weeks. It’s found its way into Voxer conversations with friends who have confessed deep hurts with co-workers and with friends. Its come up when the word Christian was replaced with ethical or omitted altogether.

Humanity is Breaking into Two Camps:

Every day the world feels a little more polarized. The first group demands that everyone in their vicinity hear and agree with their viewpoint. Disagreement is met with disdain, obnoxious memes, or my favorite – Bible verses plucked randomly without any context around them.

The second group of people responds in frustration to the first. They are bewildered as to why those who so confidently point out the flaws they see in “the other side’s” arguments are unwilling to consider that their own view has some gaps in it as well.

The most frustrating part is that when the second group tries to distance themselves realizing there is no point in continuing to circle around deaf ears they are accused of being unwilling to listen!

This Divisiness is Tearing Apart the Church

Francis Chan faced backlash for sharing a stage with Benny Hinn. His explanation was clear: “Chan stated that he believes he can be most effective in places where he is ‘not in alignment theologically,’ so long as he is permitted to preach freely from Scripture.” The announcement is a recent one, but just last month Benny Hinn stated he is “correcting his theology” on the prosperity gospel. Could it be Chan’s influence?

The pressure to pick a camp and stay there is overt:

  • Sharon Hodde Miller and Annie Downs addressed this pressure in a recent podcast. They have both received requests to speak out publically on situations they don’t feel called to take sides on. Sharon’s latest book addresses this directly and points out that when we are more concerned with growing a platform than being a voice for the voiceless God is calling us to speak for this is a problem. However, we don’t need to have a public voice on every issue.
  • Priscilla Shirer spoke about the pressure to speak out on every subject and the lessons she has had to learn about what her large platform calling is about and what she is drawing a boundary around only speaking about to people in her inner circles.
  • You can read about Jackie Hill Perry losing income and a future speaking engagement due to an Instagram photo.

When Rachel Held Evans passed Ed Stetzer wrote a beautiful reflection of their relationship which he ended with this quote: “I’m thankful for many of the interactions we had, and I am a better person for having engaged with her.”

Why can’t we learn from each other with the understanding that we all love Jesus and we’re all learning different things at different points in our life journey?

I’ve learned different things about God from hundreds of different speakers and authors. It’s still my responsibility to check everything they say against what God says for myself. That doesn’t mean I have to stop listening. And it doesn’t mean that when I do listen I stop loving Jesus.

Listening is a Skill Taught in Preschool

It seems our human instinct is not to listen to each other. Discover Explore Learn says: “Listening skills are important at any life stage, but even more so in the early years.” There are plenty of skills I learned in elementary school and middle school I’ve long forgotten. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t relevant or important.

A quick review of this list of 7 Listening Activities to Get Your Students Attentive and Ready to Learn identifies skills that will translate from the classroom to the boardroom with little adjustment.

I bring up this point to show that we’re all capable of learning HOW to listen to each other better, but it is not our natural instinct. It is a CHOICE to listen.

Jesus Listened

In Mark 5 when the bleeding woman is healed by touching Jesus’s robe he pauses to hear her story. She was already healed, but he listened anyway.

In John 5 Jesus approaches a blind man at the healing pool and has a conversation with him. He learns his story and ensures that the man isn’t left wondering WHY his healing happens.

In Luke 19 Jesus is attentive to body language. He sees Zaccheaus in a tree and knows this man is eager to be in his presence. Jesus doesn’t care that Zaccheaus is a tax collector, he invites himself over to his home for a meal and when he leaves Zaccheaus is a changed man.

Luke 10 and John 11 Jesus has conversations with Mary and Martha. These two sisters who love Jesus are trying their best to serve him and learn from him in their own ways. He pauses to teach them where others might rebuke their questions.

What Does This Have to Do with Athletics?

Coachable athletes are those who put their listening skills to use daily.

Coaches who model how to listen reinforce the important skills athletes will need in the classroom, workforce, and relationships.

Since it seems the areas where healthy listening practices are dwindling rapidly, it’s more important than ever that coaches and athletes practice excellent listening skills, especially when they don’t agree.

Rather than wasting time looking around for someone to agree with everything you agree with (since that is extremely unlikely to exist) both parties are likely to have more success by having healthy conversations. When we learn to listen and accept that it’s okay to have different opinions than other people we will all be better off. Who knows, you may even learn something new that end up agreeing with!

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