Our challenge is NOT in having the right advice to offer - it is allowing enough time to pass for the other person to actually WANT our advice! When I was in Bible College, one of the classes we took was designed to give us the skills to "listen" - really intent, serious listening. It was probably the longest and hardest semester learning the skills of biblical counseling - beginning with the skills of listening and ending with the skills of, oh yeah....listening. What was that all about? Somewhere along the way, our professors had learned that answering before listening is both stupid and rude. People were going to want to confide in us, hard things would be shared, and answers would be sought - but we had to learn to hear them out before offering the advice we were just chatting at the bit to get out!
Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. (Proverbs 18:13)
The failure to listen long enough or allow the time to build the trust that would be required to really share the issues could result in a wrong perception of the issues and a truly faulty answer to the problem. That would benefit no one. The entire eighteenth chapter of Proverbs is about words - how a fool speaks in ramblings and without thought; how a few words of gossip are nothing more than cheap words that really turn your stomach in the end; or teaching about how fights are started by the words that are chosen - be it your words or the other guy's. This is only one chapter of the Bible, and it has so much to say about what comes out of our mouth!
God has much to say about how we speak, what we listen to, and when it is that we are to speak or be silent. He commends us for bringing forth truth instead of lies. He exhorts us to listen before we speak. He encourages us to consider the audience and the timing of the message before we bring it. It must be an important thing for us to learn how to listen if God speaks to us so much about our speech and about our listening ears and responsive hearts! Words are weapons or wealth - they have the power to heal and the power to restore - but a lot depends on who is wielding the weapon or sharing the wealth.
We are encouraged to learn the skill of being good listeners. That may mean that we have to learn to NOT speak - something we might just benefit more from than any other instruction we embrace from scripture! I was often taught that all I think may be true, but not all I think needs to be spoken (although I struggle with keeping my thoughts inside sometimes). I need to give others time to come to a place of clarity in their thinking - eventually they will come to a place of sharing that may include the things I knew before they even said it. If that is so, they needed that time in order to be ready for the answer God wants them to receive. This is called wisdom - learning to speak when the time is appropriate.
I have learned that words do more than describe a situation - they expose a heart. The 'skill' comes in allowing the other person enough time to connect with their heart. When we take the time to truly listen, we give them the time they need to make that connection themselves. You'd be surprised what you learn about the heart of another when you give them time and opportunity to share it without jumping in to offer advice at the first opportunity. Our challenge is NOT in having the right advice to offer - it is allowing enough time to pass for the other person to actually WANT our advice - godly wisdom comes in allowing the time for the other person to be ready to receive that advice! So, tune up those listening ears and shut off that constant flow of "free speech". It is time to listen! Just sayin!