I could always hit a fastball. It didn’t matter how hard they threw it, I could eventually catch up with it. The splitter was a different story. It looked just like a fastball, until it didn’t. I was lost, flailing at it with no chance of making contact. I’m sure it was somewhat comical to those watching.
I was anticipating one thing and got another.
Proverbs 18:13 puts it into life terms for us: “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”
Just like swinging for a fastball when an offspeed pitch is on the way, right?
Here are three habits of the kind of person described in this proverb.
Assuming. You assume you know the motives, feelings, thoughts, and subsequent words of whomever is speaking to you. After all, you have a history with them, or you consider yourself great at reading people, or whatever. As a result, you assume you understand where they’re coming from and what they mean. So, listening to them (what they say and how they say it) isn’t on your radar.
Projecting. You’ve been in their shoes, so you know how they feel. Or at least you know how they should feel. Projected onto them are all of your own thoughts, emotions, and beliefs about the particular topic. Listening to them goes out the window because you are convinced they feel a certain way, since that’s how you would feel.
Rehearsing. They’re talking. You’re thinking of your response to what they’re saying. We all do it. The goal, then, isn’t to listen, but to have them listen to and agree with you.
The result, as the proverb says, is folly and shame. Why? Because many of our assumptions are wrong, no matter how well we think we know a person. Because projecting onto them what we feel and think seldom matches what they actually feel and think. And because they just want someone to listen, instead of formulating the perfect response to what they’re saying.
How can we fix it? How can coaches, players, and parents follow the counsel of this proverb and thereby honor God with how we listen to one another?
Lots of ink and paper have been used in explaining the most effective ways to listen to another, and I won’t rehash that here. But, perhaps it comes down to one simple attitude: humility.
Humbly listen, even if you disagree.
Humbly listen, even if it makes you angry.
Humbly listen, even if they don’t have all the facts.
Humbly listen, because maybe you’ll learn something.
Humbly listen, since speaking before you fully understand sets you up to respond foolishly (and regret it later).
Humbly listen, so that you won’t be swinging for a fastball when a splitter is on the way.
Lord Jesus, make me a better listener as a player, coach, or parent. Not so I can simply be a better person, but so that I can honor the people you created and love so dearly. Help me to see their value and to humbly listen to them. Amen.