Talking Instead of Listening - The Warrior's Journey®

Talking Instead of Listening

Author: Brendon O'Dowd, USAF (Ret.)

Scream That Motivation . Photo by United States Marines is licensed under CC By 2.0

Shooting the breeze and making conversation are sure-fire ways to get you in trouble at Basic Training.

That extraneous chitchat makes you a magnet, attracting unwanted attention and trouble.  The quicker you learn to keep your mouth shut and listen to the commands, the better off you will be.

Fear is employed for maximum effect to ensure you are listening, but it tends to fade after Basic Training.  Supervisors may still yell at you, but it’s not constant and unrelenting.  And you can probably find ways to hide or avoid confrontation.  Rank may still have its place in keeping us quiet, but it does nothing to stop the debates and arguments we have behind closed doors and especially in our minds (and hearts).

Starts With the Heart

The Bible teaches the right way to listen and it starts with having a transformed heart.  In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus confronted a group of leaders about their listening skills.  He didn’t provide new techniques on effective communication or pointers such as counting to 10 before they spoke.  He didn’t ask them to rephrase what they just heard Him say.  No, He was concerned about the silent dialogue taking place in their hearts.

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, ‘Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts?’…  And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him.  But he knew their thoughts…” (Luke 6:7-8a)

The religious leaders were upset that Jesus was becoming more popular and powerful each day.  They worried about maintaining their exalted positions and about Rome turning up the heat on a squabbling nation.  Their worry stopped them from listening to what He really had to say.

They didn’t voice their complaints out loud, but Jesus knew exactly what was happening.  The word “question” from the verse above is the Greek word from which we get “dialogue.”  The leaders were having a debate inside their heads and hearts trying to figure out what to do with Jesus.  In other words, their internal dialogue drowned out the truth Jesus was preaching.


Listening requires us to stop talking and receive what others are saying.  It allows us to dialogue with others rather than with ourselves.  How can we change?

Certainly, counting to 10 before answering, summarizing a person’s point in your own words, and seeing things from another’s perspective are very helpful techniques to practice. But God wants more from us than good habits.  He wants us to be listeners like Him.

The chief reason we need to listen is because He listens.  We are made in His image and given the power to act like Him.  Here is a small sample of the times God heard.

  • God heard and remembered the trouble of Israel in Egypt (Exodus 2:24).
  • God heard the Israelites when they were hungry (Exodus 16:12).
  • God heard King David from the Temple (2 Samuel 22:7).
  • God heard King Hezekiah and saw his tears (2 Kings 20:5).
  • God heard prayers for help (Psalm 18:6).
  • God heard a Roman official (Acts 10:31).

If God is a listener, how can we listen like Him?  First, we listen from a place of love.  That becomes our primary motivation for listening–love for God and love for His people.  When we love others, we want to take the time to hear what they are saying.  Second, we trust God to take care of us.  We don’t worry about our response or if we are being heard.  We know He hears us, and He promises to be our Shepherd and take care of our needs (John 10).

Are you ready to listen like God?


Dear God, please open our hearts and minds to You and Your word.  Help us to not only keep our mouths closed, but also still our hearts and minds to be receptive to what you are speaking to us. Forgive us for the turmoil our speech can create, as well as the inner turmoil we have inside that can distract us from You.  Thank You for listening to us, and help us to be listeners like You. Amen.

In article photo: Hurry Up! by the U.S. Army licensed under CC BY 2.0

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