Points to Ponder: Stop and listen

Points to Ponder
Stop and listen
By Pastor Whitmore
Weekly Contributing Writer

"A fool has no delight in understanding but in expressing his own heart" (Proverbs 18:2)
So much of our stress and conflicts in life are centered in relationships. Trouble at work, at school, with neighbors, in church, and in families usually spring up from an interaction - or a failure to interact - that has left one or all of the parties involved wounded. You really can't get through this life without being hurt by someone you love; and likewise, without doing some damage to them yourself. And when you reflect back on some of these experiences, how many arise from a misunderstanding of motives, a miss-perception of the facts, or a combination of both?
One of my life verses comes from Proverbs.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It is the basic biblical approach to life. Trust the Source. With your heart, the core and center of your being, trust in God's perspective and His authority. It's that "knee jerk reaction," a snap judgment, to a situation that is typical of how we lean on our own understanding. How many times have you been so sure of something, only to find out later that you were wrong? And when you discovered your error, how many times was it a small detail or a misunderstanding that had your blood pressure climbing and your temper flaring?
It's so easy to "fly off the handle" at someone because you think you heard something and it hit you wrong. At moments like these you can wind up talking a lot more than you should. Listening would be the better option, especially if emotions are high.
Consider what the Proverbs advise.
"He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him" (Proverbs 18:13).
I admire the wise leader who hears a complaint or a dispute and, even though he thinks the issue is simple and clear, he hears all sides out first. Sometimes, the matter of disagreement is actually not the real issue. There's something deeper going on that can only be discerned by listening.
The "folly and shame" of quickly settling an argument is like painting over rust. The real problem that you thought was so quickly solved, seeps through; and usually with more extensive damage as it does.
Another Proverb we would do well to heed:
"The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17).
You may think there are two sides to the story, but actually there are three: the two immediately before you - and then the truth.
I have so often seen where opposing sides of a matter, coming to me separately, will tell the same story but with a completely different set of facts. The first person sounds right. Then the next person tells it very differently. What a dilemma!
Again, it's all about listening. Do we avoid listening because we don't like to hear the emotional rendering of an issue? It becomes complex, hard to comprehend, to deal with, and to "solve." Yet sometimes there is nothing to solve at all. Matters just need to be brought out and exposed to daylight. Sometimes, if we will carefully and patiently listen, and allow the story to emerge from the parties involved, they will see the solution themselves. In fact, they may be the only ones who really understand what the problem is and how to handle it.
Facilitating the process of sharing and listening may be all you can do to handle a conflict. It may feel like you are powerless in the center of a storm of emotions. But actually, you are wielding a subtle kind of power. By listening, you can be a conduit that allows reason to prevail.
How do you engage these tough situations?
"In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:6).
It is incredible to watch God work in the mechanics of our circumstances if we will only trust that He knows how - and when.
If you are walking with God, you're less likely to jump to conclusions.

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring, MD (1/4 mile east of Clear Spring on Rt. 40). Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45AM and 10:45PM, both days). www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.