Isn’t it great when someone says, “to make a long story short,” because then you know to cancel your plans for the rest of the day.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m not one to talk about long stories or the people who tell them. I’m known for being more than a little on the wordy side. And still, even in a personal conversation, I sometimes have trouble listening to others whose presentations are longer than three minutes. Especially if they don’t have visual aids.
People. Give me a cartoon. Flannel board, maybe. A graph or a nice pie chart even. Not necessarily because of my ADD or anything but it’s always good to be—hey, now I want pie.
Speaking of the abrupt segues of people with short attention spans, I opened the microwave the other day and found a piece of pie in there. I thought, Where in the world did that come from? Then I remembered. I put it in there two days before. Wow, bet that thing is done now.
All focus deficits aside, I really am trying to learn to listen better. Even without the pie chart. Or the pie. James 1:19 tells me that “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak,” (HCSB). And boy oh boy, can I get those backwards.
So how can we be “quick to hear” and “slow to speak”? Listen faster, speak slower? Actually, I’m quite sure it’s not a matter of speed. More often we need to simply replace the speaking with the listening.
How many times have I already been putting together some kind of “impressive” response in my mind while someone was still talking? All too often I should still be listening when I let my words take control of my brain and my lips. Letting our words take control is letting our flesh take control. And you can bet sin won’t be far behind. Words out of control lead to anger and all kinds of sinful responses on both sides of a conversation. James connects words and the angry responses we need to avoid in that very verse when he calls us to be: “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” and the next verse explains that “man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness,” (James 1:19, 20, HCSB).
Proverbs 10:19 says it well. “When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise,” (HCSB). If we desire to live well—to “accomplish God’s righteousness”—maybe we don’t need to be as concerned about an attention deficit as we are about giving our attention to the right things. We’re not walking in righteousness, nor encouraging it in others, when we let our me-focused words run wild, when we focus on having our say rather than finding ways we can use our words to build up another, and when we let our focus slip away from genuinely caring for the people the Lord has called us to love.
O Lord, may my focus be always on You. Use my words to love others in Your name.
I do want to love others with sweet words of grace, Proverbs 16:24-style. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body,” (HCSB).
And forgive me if it’s the ADD talking here, but to me, that sounds a whole lot like pie.