Pride leads to destruction; humility leads to honor.
It’s stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen. Prov. 18:12-13
Love others as much as you love yourself. Mark 12:31
Listening is a lost art. You know, the kind where a person sets aside all other thoughts, makes eye contact, and lets another person have the stage for a bit. I’m not talking about the pretend stage, the karaoke one, where you’re letting them think you’re listening to their words, but really you’re thinking about all the other versions of that same song, all the songs you’d rather be listening to, or how much better your own rendition would be.
There are subtle variations of the problem. There’s the one-upper. He’s the guy who hears every story as an invitation to jump in and share his own, more impressive version. Before you even get into the second sentence of your story, he’s waiting for you to finish (or take a breath) so he can tell his. Everything about his life is more important than yours – his work, his kids, his trip to the E.R. Naturally, he’s uninterested in what you have to say, because he has so much more. There’s the know-it-all. You can’t tell this person anything, because she already knows everything. This person will listen, but not to hear you nearly as much as to correct you. It’s a good thing she’s your friend, too, because if not, who knows how many people you would have misled with the inaccuracies of the minor, insignificant details of your story? There’s the awesome by association girl. She’s a little different. This person cuddles up next to people she thinks are awesome…people with great stories, great talent, great popularity. She uses superlatives. A lot. Your story isn’t important unless you’re on her current list of awesome connections. You’re on the list if there’s drama or excitement in your life, or if conversation with you serves her in some other way. If not, you might as well just save that story, because you’ve been replaced. There’s the been there, done that guy. This person nods affirmatively and says, “Right, right” the whole time you’re talking, because he’s experienced that exact same thing, multiple times. In fact, he’s an expert, and he wants to make sure you know you’re not telling him anything new. In fact, why are you even talking?
Part of the problem is that we’re overloaded with activity and information. It’s hard to be impressed when your schedule and brain have no room left in them. Some people wear busyness like it’s a badge of honor. It’s not. Busyness steals your joy and kills your relationships, so don’t let it own you. But another problem is that we’re searching for significance, and lots of us are on the wrong path to finding it. The path we’re on says that we’re in a race. If we stop pushing our own awesomeness long enough to be impressed with someone or something else, we lose.
Over on the other path, you’ll do things like:
1. Brag on your friends’ kids. Not just the ones who might be in the top 10 on American Idol or pitching for the New York Yankees one day. I’m talking about the ones that maybe no one else except a grandparent is bragging on. God created your friends’ kids just as special as your own, and they’re pretty awesome, too.
2. Stop being the one-upper, the know-it-all, the awesome by association girl, or the been there, done that guy. Let someone else talk without interrupting or following it up with your own story, correction, association, or expertise. Replace whatever you would normally say with something like this – “Really? That’s cool!”
3. Look for one new thing or person (who is not related to you) to be impressed with today. Don’t just think it, say it.
4. If you’re too busy for #3, figure out how to do life differently.
5. Use your words to elevate other people instead of yourself.
It’s okay to be impressed. It’s good, even. You don’t have a monopoly on awesome. God spreads His awesomeness around among each of the more than 7 billion people in the world. When you stop and take notice, you get a better grasp on who He is in the world and your own place in it.