I recently noticed something about myself that needs to improve dramatically. This is not a confession as such but rather a recognition and determination to improve. In-fact, this particular shortcoming may not have been noticed by anyone but myself. It is, nonetheless, disturbing and it may have serious consequences. After thinking on this for sometime, I realized that I may not be the only one who needs to improve in this area. If this article strikes a chord with you, I hope that you will also try to improve.
I believe the problem begins with our manner of conversation. We, in our society, are uncomfortable with silence. When we engage someone in conversation, we are accustomed to filling every moment with words. We will say anything to fill that awful silence. Perhaps this fundamental means of conversation is wrong. Think about that for a moment. Since we are so very uncomfortable with silence in our conversation, what must we do while someone else is speaking? We must digest what they are saying and assemble our reply at the same time. Now, here is the shortcoming I have noticed in myself. At times, I find myself giving more thought to my reply than to what the other person is actually saying. What will I say? How will I say it? What will the other person think about my reply? Will they believe it to be an intelligent reply? Will they think it to be a silly reply? Have you ever found yourself thinking similar thoughts during a conversation?
This problem is multi-fold. First, with all of these thoughts going through our minds while someone else is talking, we may not really know what they are saying. Second, when trying to listen to someone and assemble our thoughts simultaneously, we may not reply in the best way. Third, pride may govern our conversation more than we recognize. Perhaps we are more concerned with impressing people with our knowledge and wit than with truly listening to and helping the person we are talking with.
The following is a good passage to consider.
"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).
Our focus in word and deed should not be on ourselves; rather, we must consider the welfare of other people. This includes conversation. If we esteem others better than ourselves, we will, out of deep concern, truly listen to them. So, in order to meet the needs of others in word and deed, we must not be overly concerned with ourselves and the things of this world. But, with bills to pay, kids to raise, places to go and things to do, how do we overcome the tendency to be self-absorbed? How do we keep a proper perspective on our own concerns?
Perhaps the key to keeping our own concerns in their proper place is a matter of faith. The Lord said,
"...take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:32-34).
When we grow to believe the Lord's teaching in this regard and to implement it in our lives, our concerns will become quite manageable. Only then will we be less concerned with the things of this world and more concerned with spiritual things. Perhaps then we can focus less on self and more on others. With less worldly baggage in our minds, we can turn our full attention on the needs of others. We may then find that we are better able to listen to the people around us and really hear what they are saying.
Perhaps we need not be so concerned with silence. Wisdom may direct us to change the method of our conversation. If we were to dedicate our full attention to what someone is saying and then take time to organize our thoughts before replying, we may find our conversations to be more rewarding.