Paying Attention

Listening doesn’t come easily for any of us, especially leaders.

Jesus once said: “Consider carefully how you LISTEN” (Luke 8:18).

Over and again, Jesus suggests that it is not enough to have ears; you must have “ears to hear.” Implicit in this is the assertion that when we appear to be listening to somebody, we are not.

We seem to be engaged, but we actually are somewhere else.

For most of us, it’s a struggle to maintain eye contact much less a mind-meld with other people. Because our brains move a lot faster than the tongue, our minds often free-associate when others are talking. We spring from one fleeting thought to another.

If the person talking only knew what was going on behind those glazed-over eyes!

Effective leaders listen well. If you are not a good listener, your future as a leader will be short.

In fact being a good listener is a skill important in many other settings. For example, being a good listener will enhance your social relationships of all types, marriage, dating, friendships, work, etc.

I find the same effort is required when it comes to paying attention to God.

Here’s what works most often for me:

  • I tend to do best either early in the morning or late at night in the quiet.
  • Scripture is a faithful teacher — whether a single verse or a particular story.
  • Nature often provides the ambiance I need to hear God’s promptings.
  • Stillness seems to be my best teacher–when I can put all my senses on alert, when I have stopped long enough to really listen with full attention.

When our kids were little, Cindy and I did a fair amount of things well—and all three boys, though different, have become adults we can be proud of. We’re thankful. But if I could go back and change one thing, I would have—

  • Modeled the practice of stillness—how to pay attention to God.
  • Settled down long enough to talk about how the day had gone and what was up with them.

I would have said more often, “Let’s be still for a moment and thank God for whatever has happened today. Let’s listen together.”

Little children can do that. Leaders must do that.

Be still and listen “carefully.

What helps you pay more attention to God? To others?

Related Articles