Pastor Marc Likins
The first thing to understand about listening well is to not listen to everything. Yes, this seems contradictory, and we want to be slow to speak and swift to hear as James 1 teaches, but some things are harmful for us to hear.
Proverbs 17:4, A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.
Wicked people listen to lies, and liars listen to the wicked. Listening to liars and wickedness will make you more like the liars and the wicked.
Proverbs 29:5, A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.
Flattery can kill you. It seems nice, but it is like stepping into a bear trap. You are never going to have an accurate view of yourself if all you get is flattery, and because of that, you will struggle to make wise decisions. It’s like trying to do your hair in a foggy mirror—you are unable to see yourself properly, so you are at a disadvantage to fix what needs to be fixed.
Remember, Absalom was guilty of this. He was able to overthrow his father and gain the kingdom, but it was extremely short-lived. Why? He primarily listened to the wrong advice.
So, part of listening well is choosing the right inputs? But how do we know what the right inputs are? There are many, but there is one that transcends in Proverbs. If you want to be wise, Proverbs advises you to listen to correction and reproofs—especially from those who you know to be righteous. (Proverbs 15:10, 13:18, 15:31-32, 6:23, 9:8-9)
Do you want to be wise and understanding? The answer is simple—hear and heed the reproof. When someone gives you feedback, course corrects you, or puts you in your place—love it, value it, don’t push it away!
When correction and rebuke come your way, you get to play one of two positions: punter or wide receiver. You can take that correction and punt it as far away from your end zone as possible. Or, you can open yourself up and say, I receive that, I want that, I cherish that.
When it comes to putting yourself in a place to receive correction, there are two things you need to know.
First, you may have unwittingly cut yourself off from this. Often, people won’t come to us with correction because they fear our response. And if they fear our response, it’s normally because they have felt our response previously. It’s very possible that you have a long list of people that are close enough to you that they can see your flaws, like your siblings, parents, close friends, spouse, adult children, and pastor. But, if they have tried to help and correct in the past, and you reacted negatively, were defensive, sulked, or exploded in anger, they may be skittish to instruct you in the future. Because of that, feedback will get to you slower, and it will be less helpful.
The best thing you could do is go to them and say, “I know I have been less than receptive in the past. That’s my mistake, and I want to welcome your feedback.”
The second thing you need to know about feedback is that you don’t have to sit around and wait for it. You can go seek it. It’s an excellent oil, it’s the path to life, it gives understanding, and it is free! You can initiate this through asking:
What’s something I do that is frustrating to you?
In what practical ways do you think I could be better as a parent, student, grandma, spouse, etc.?
What is it like to be on the other side of me?
What have I done or said that has hindered our personal or professional relationship?
What are 3 things you wish I would continue to do, do more, or stop doing?
What is my blind spot?
What is my single most important behavioral quality that detracts from the strength of the team or your relationship with me?
Do you want an added bonus? You can do this with God. (Psalm 139:23-24)
If you can master this, you will have unlocked one of the greatest secrets in life. Feedback feels like something you should run from, but in reality, if you will receive it and welcome it, it will be exactly what you need.