Reading through the Bible together

Thursday, January 16, 2014

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An old saying goes, “I wish I could be young again. That’s when I knew all the answers.”  I remember when I was a teenager and had an opinion about everything and wanted to share it. But the older I get, the more I prefer to listen.

A few hours before I wrote this commentary on Proverbs 12, I received an e-mail from a Russian female colleague with a request that struck me as completely inappropriate. She asked for information about my activities that was beyond the realm of her responsibility. While I cringed at reading the request, I decided not to send off an inappropriate angry response but instead seek more information. I’m glad I did.

A few minutes later my colleague wrote to say that the information this lady was asking for was not for her personally, but for our Department, which had every right to seek for that information.

People who fail to control their emotions face the specter of embarrassment and shame. “A fool's wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame” (v. 16).

You might be tempted to overlook my e-mail incident as a complication of working in a multicultural place. But that’s not true. People so often misunderstand each other that I’m surprised that more wars haven’t broken out around the globe. Good communication is a skill that is difficult to master and escapes most of us.

That’s why it pays to listen. Before allowing yourself to feel annoyed about a perceived slight, seek more information from the source. When someone comes to you with a complaint or a suggestion, get as much information as you can and then repeat what you have heard to make sure you understood the issue correctly.

Frankly, you may never have to share your response. People often just want to be heard and, by simply listening, you gain an opportunity to learn and grow.

Indeed, “a prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness” (v. 23).

Let’s make a conscious effort to listen more and talk less.


Andrew McChesney

Journalist in Russia

Columnist for the Adventist Review