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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cart before the horse?

Have you ever answered before you totally listened?  I think this is a plight common to mankind - we get ahead of ourselves and others on occasion.  Whenever we do, the natural outcome is to either to jump to conclusions before we have all the facts we need, or to think we know the solution when we have no idea we are really aiming at.  To this end, I find myself often "backing the boat up" to start over again when I find I have jumped ahead!  I need to regroup - something which can be costly, to say the least, because we expend our energies and often harm relationships when we have put the cart before the horse.  The core reason we suffer from this common ailment of "acting before listening" is this idea of pride.  This "superior" impression we have of ourselves, our abilities, and our stance in life often gets in the way of us really hearing!  When it does, we find the issues multiply - they don't seem to decrease!

Pride leads to destruction; humility leads to honor. It’s stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen. (Proverbs 18:12-13 CEV)

Pride leads to destruction.  It is like a detour sign - you can be traveling along pretty well when all of a sudden you encounter this orange sign indicating your course is going to be changed.  You might find yourself in some of the most unfamiliar territory whenever you have to follow a detour!  So avoiding detours is probably a good thing!  Pride always leads somewhere - but the destination and the journey it takes us is not always that desirable.

Humility leads to honor.  A different path indeed - for in humility, we find we are no longer guided by our need to be in control, but can willingly submit to the will of another. In pride, we simply plunge ahead despite hearing the will of another, or without waiting to discover it!  The bulk of our relationship issues really stem from the times we allow pride to dictate our actions.  

If you have ever found yourself "backing the boat up", you know how this simple action makes you feel - humiliated!  Now, humiliation is when we "lose face", so to speak.  We take a blow to our self-respect.  Essentially, not listening is really a sign we don't respect ourselves in the first place!  If we did, we'd save ourselves the "rework" in life!  

So, how do we learn to listen THEN answer rather than answer THEN listen?  If we really want to avoid the rework,we have to get a handle on our feelings of "self-importance" and see how it is we move into a greater place of "self-respect".  These are different - one elevates one's worth to unreal heights; the other gives us a true sense of exactly where we stand.

It has been hard to learn not to "talk over" others - this is a constant life-lesson for me.  I think my ideas and stories matter, I guess, so I just start blurting them our on occasion when they neither matter, nor is the timing right for their sharing.  The times when I have deferred to another to just listen, I learn so much.  I learn about them as a person and I am able to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit bringing clarity into my mind and heart.

This one action of listening FIRST has been the hardest lesson for me to learn, but it probably has been one of the most valuable.  Yet, there are times when others expect me to have more to say, or to jump to immediate action.  They don't understand this period of just "listening".  In fact, they misinterpret it as me being timid at times.  In fact, I am not timid - I am just trying to avoid the "rework"!  If I were totally honest, I have been embarrassed by my quick conclusions in the past and don't want to repeat that same action in the present!

A couple of things to remember:
- Rework happens anytime we don't take the time to listen up front.  Pride keeps us from listening - because we think we have it all figured out, know best, have been this way before, etc.  We have to move from being "self-important" to being able to respect the decisions we make - this only comes when we take time consistently to listen.
- Humility is not being abased.  It is being aware of one's value and then allowing that value to lend to the moment.  We don't flaunt our value - we lend it.  The difference is that of being available to do as God says, when he says.  Pride gets us acting out of our own impressions - humility helps us to act on the impression God plants within.
- Relationships are made better in the listening.  We discover so much about ourselves when we take time to be quiet!  You may think the opposite would be true, but when I don't immediately launch into action, I find my thoughts allow me to digest the truths I am hearing and weed out the untruths just as well.

We may not get this down the first time we try it, but if we consistently ask God to assist us in being more in tune with where and when we might just be displaying a little too much self-importance, he will reveal not only those places and times, but a consistent theme of where we have been less than respectful of others and ourselves.  We don't avoid detours by ignoring the signs - we manage to avoid them by never traveling down the road in the first place!  Just sayin!