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Facebook originally began as a somewhat innocent platform by which people could keep up with friends and family and share photos and updates. Nowadays, a casual glance at social media content is like taking a stroll through a Stephen King fever dream. 

With the click of a button, you can find the worst of humanity on full display, free of charge. Endless comment-thread disputes reveal one fundamental truth: 

No one is listening to anyone else…

Left to ourselves, we are incapable of truly hearing others. With the advent of iPads, smartphones, and personal devices, this problem has only intensified. Many of us are shut up inside our islands, observing little of what passes around us. How can we fix this problem? Simply learning how to listen seems like an easy solution.

But the problem isn’t that we don’t know how to listen. The problem is that we listen selectively. We listen to ourselves. We listen to those who flatter or manipulate. We listen to the inner narrative that plays in our minds constantly, like television sets in retirement homes. 

Learning how to *truly* listen might be one of the most important skills you ever learn. 

We often think of listening as a purely physical reaction. It seems easy. So long as we have functioning eardrums, we’re good. But biblically, that is not what hearing really means. 

When he was teaching, Jesus commonly repeated a phrase that may seem strange to modern people: “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23). Jesus says receiving sound waves doesn’t count. Hearing is not a physical activity. Biblical “hearing” is a spiritual exercise—something you have to learn. 

Modern therapists use the term “active listening skills.” While this term can be helpful, the Bible has an older, deeper picture of what listening requires. 

Biblical Listening:

  • Listen to God

In our first session, found here, we looked at the topic of prayer. If you missed that lesson, go back and begin there before moving on to the subject of listening. Why?

Biblical listening is a spiritual exercise that begins with prayer. If you are experiencing conflicts, you can’t work past, or feel like your spouse never listens to what you say, then start with prayer. Prayer opens your marriage to God’s grace. We can’t do much without it. 

Does your spouse seem overly stubborn? Unreasonable? Impossible? It may come as a shock, but it’s possible that they feel that way about you! Are you praying together? 

We can’t listen to each other if we don’t first listen to God. 

  • Stop. Look. Listen

James 1:19 NIV says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Again, the spiritual reality is most important. Biblical listening is connected to our hearts, not our eardrums. Start with getting your heart right before God; then you will be able to listen to your spouse. 

Once you are there, you are ready for the next aspect of listening: Stop talking, stop defending, stop arguing, look your spouse in the eyes, and really hear what he or she is saying. This is one of the greatest and most profound ways to show them that you care. This means you don’t start mentally rejecting, interrupting, or formulating your response before they even finish talking.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). 

The Five Ways to Listen:

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott offer five helpful ways to be a good listener for your spouse that we’d like to share with you, along with a brief description of each one.

  1. Listen with: EMPATHY

Empathy is when you see a situation through another’s eyes, which enables you to understand

their perspective. This is powerful for couples and provides a “window into their world.” You

don’t need to fix anything. You just need to understand their point of view.

  1. Listen for: EMOTION

When your spouse’s emotions are running high, listen to how he or she is feeling instead of reacting. If you respond in a way that does not add fuel to the emotion, it will help ease the

tension and bring about a more productive conversation.

  1. Listen without: BIAS

More than likely, you and your spouse have different opinions on various topics. When

those differences need to be discussed. Choose to set aside your bias, listen, and seek to understand.

  1. Listen: LOVINGLY

In our earlier section, we discussed non-verbal “attending skills”. This works really well here: loving gestures and posture communicate that you care

  1. Listen: GENEROUSLY

This one is so important! Your spouse needs the gift of your attention; no one else is able to

offer what you can provide. Embrace these moments, and the intimacy in your relationship

will flourish.

If you are interested in learning more about prayer and how to pray together as a married couple, please join us for our weekly DREAMarriage classes. Visit our website to find more information or to sign up to participate. We can’t wait to meet you!

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