Loving Your Neighbor: Listening


By: Garry Maddux

November 12, 2023

Scripture Reading: Acts 17:11 (KJV) These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

How can we know if those things are valid unless we give our undivided attention to listening?

I have taught public speaking and interpersonal communication at the college level for the past 15 years. Most textbooks on interpersonal communication use theories or ideas from the bible.  I am still learning ways to listen to others and God. Listening is a known process, and being a good listener has many benefits in our daily lives and church. I believe it is essential for Christians to know how to listen both to God and others. In this lesson, I will give some theories on communication with scriptures to reaffirm these ideas. Additionally, I will share some examples of poor and healthy listening.

What are we listening to? Students in an Ivy Tech college class were asked to check their phones and tell the other students how much time they spent on social media daily. Can you guess most of the responses?

  • Less than an hour
  • One hour to two hours
  • Three to five hours
  • More than 6 hours

The common answer was more than 6 hours. How much time do you personally spend daily on your phone? How can you love your neighbor if you are filled with the world’s ideas? How much time do you spend daily listening to subjects related to God? We learn to love our neighbor by listening to God and godly men.

What is Communication?

A College textbook, “Interplay,” defines communication: Communication is the sending and receiving of information and can be one-on-one or between groups. Communication requires a sender, the person who initiates communication, and a listener, who receives and interprets the message (Adler et al., 2022).

Biblical Communication
It starts with a person (sender) with a godly message and encodes it in a particular way so that others can listen to and understand the idea. Here is an example of how Jesus communicated to the accusers with the adulteress woman and how they listened:

John 8:4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
John 8:5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

Jesus spoke, and the accusers listened and understood his response. They heard!

John 8:9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When the Judeans listened and decoded the message, they became ashamed and walked away. 

Encoding the message with godly principles will bring godly results. Encoding the message with ungodly principles will cause the listener to respond unexpectedly. Healthy communication is essential. Lousy listening is like eating a pig; good listening is like eating a T-bone steak.

Charismatic Preachers

The most successful charismatic preachers know how to speak effectively so that the audience will listen and be inclined to follow. Are Judeo-Christian preachers bringing godly results or causing the listener to respond in ungodly ways? Is their message Christ-like, anti Christ-like, Godly, ungodly, good, bad, biblical, unbiblical, truth or a lie? Nieuwhof (N.D) says, “Fast forward to growing charismatic churches, and guess what? People are not looking for information. They are looking for transformation. Leaders who live in the past end up dying in the future.”

Proverbs 15:4 (KJV) A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

Which person below is the most charismatic?

  • Joel Osteen
  • Paul Cain
  • Joyce Meyer
  • T.D. Jakes
  • Walt Giddings
  • Don Elmore

Seven Habits that turn off the listeners

Good listening skills require effort and cooperation with all parties. A public speaking expert, Bonell (2013), says that people with ‘poor speech etiquette’ always use these seven ‘rude’ phrases:

  1. “Do you want to ...?” Avoid manipulation. What to say instead: “Will you do me a favor?” After all, people generally like to pitch in; however, they do not want to feel manipulated.
  2. “Here is the thing ...” Do not sound unimportant. What to say instead: If you offer an opinion, say, “I think ...” These two words remove any suggestion that you are pompously issuing a declaration. 
  3. “Right?”  A manipulative insistence upon agreement. At best, it is a useless bit of filler. What to say instead: “I cannot think of a more critical moment for the team. Can you?”
  4. “Well, figure out a way.”  Do not insult, and it is mean. What to say instead: Warmer language, “Well, let us talk about it and figure out a way.”
  5. “It is what it is.” This phrase is usually used as shorthand for “stop complaining.” What to say instead: Saying something as simple as, “That is tough. I am sorry you are going through that,” can make a difference by allowing the other person to feel heard.
  6. “Obviously ...” This word subtly or not-so-subtly conveys that anyone disagreeing with the speaker is wrong. Even if you do not realize it, using it can make you seem arrogant. What to say instead: Skip it altogether and remember that silence can be beautiful. The most effective speakers know that proving your superiority or correctness wastes time and wins you no friends.
  7. “If you want my honest opinion ...” (or, “I was just joking.”) First, did anyone ask for your opinion? If so, they probably do not expect or need a rude response masquerading as honesty. What to say instead: “May I share with you an idea.”

People want help, support, and solutions. We all must speak daily but be careful about how we talk; other people listen.

Your hidden thoughts are revealed to the listeners. “For speech is to reveal that which was concealed in thought, as in the case of a person, speech reveals to the hearers the speaker’s concealed and hidden thoughts(Adler et al., 2021).”

Good listening is a gold mine; Bad listening is a slime pit.

Let us look at Gossip

The enemy wants us to gossip and talk about others. The worldly environment influences us to stray from God and communicate (talk) like the world.

Leviticus 19:16 (KJV) Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
1 Timothy 5:13 (KJV) And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

According to Lucas (2018), “97 percent of people know making up rumors about someone’s sex life is not okay. However, even still, 39 percent of employees have seen it happen—and six percent say they have participated, too. People do not just casually overhear inappropriate conversations—they tend to chime in.” An older study from The New York Daily News (2009) suggests that “80 percent of what we talk about is gossip .”

The sad part of human nature makes us want to listen to stories about others. What are we listening to, gossip, news, and negative stories? Does listening to the wrong items change your identity?

How to stop gossip? Say instead: "Excuse me, I thought I overheard you gossiping"; or "Excuse me; I do not want to hear about your negative discussions" and walk away.

We are responsible for communicating with our brother when there is a conflict or noticeable sin:

Matthew 18:15 (KJV) Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

For example, if someone makes a hurtful comment, they are likely to consider it as they do not know what they are talking about; the person must be mean and dirty minded instead of external factors (fatigue, pressures of life, having a bad day).

Offenses cause poor listening. When we listen and become offended at what was said, “Stop.” What to do instead: Take a few minutes to pray before you respond to a hurtful comment and allow the Holy Spirit to give you the right words. Pray and cast your negative thoughts and feelings to God.

God listens to our prayers and desires for us to cast our cares to him. Biblical examples: David Ps 142.  Ps 62:8 

1 Peter 5:7 (KJV) Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

How to Respond

Saying an excellent complement to a person causes them to want to listen. An example from college is when a student receives a lower grade on a paper. Do not criticize. What to say instead: “Nice job following the directions for the paper; ideas would be clearer if the spelling is checked. Overall, nice work!”    A sandwich is an excellent way to give input and allow the person to maintain a good face. Sandwich states a positive remark, then a critique, and then a positive remark. Christ illustrates this in one of the letters to the churches in Revelation.

Revelation 2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

Ways to become a better listener

According to (Adler et al., 2021), ways to become a better listener are focus, note taking, holding judgment, undivided attention, looking for evidence, and repetition. Focus on the main parts of a speech and look for evidence the speaker is conveying.

The Bible speaks of having two or three witnesses. Repeating it two or more times is essential if someone is speaking. Listen for repeats. 2 Corinthians 13:1 (KJV) This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

Cross (n.d.) conveys that listening skills are vital for an organization. Cross asks, “How much do listening skills contribute to the success of an organization?”  Cross quotes research from Stanford Research Center in answering this question, saying, “This research found a definition answer. This research says interpersonal skills were 87.5% versus 12.5% of knowledge or a degree to the success of an organization.” The effective listing model by Brownell (1996) is called the H U R I E R model and provides several suggestions for improving a person’s listening skills:

  • Hearing:

    A person speaks at a rate of 175 words per minute but hears at a rate of 750 words per minute. This is called ‘spare brain time.’ While listening, our minds go in and out: What's for lunch? Who's winning the ball game? I wish I were someplace else. People do this while trying to listen to a speaker. This model helps people to overcome the spare brain time and focus on the speaker. Philippians 4:8 (KJV) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

  • Understanding:

    A principle in life is the 80/20 or 90/10 rule. 10% percent of what we read or listen to is essential. You will understand the message more clearly by focusing on the 10% to 20%. Example: 90% percent of the wealth is in the hands of 10% of the population; 9% of the 10% of the wealth is in the hands of the 1%. The Bible speaks of this concept. Lev 27:30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.

  • Remembering:

    There are many tools for improving your memory of what was spoken. One tool is called a Mnemonic. For example: 30 days has Sept, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31 except for February, which has 28, and in leap year, 29. Another example: How to remember four of the Pauline Epistles (letters written by Paul to the churches): Go Eat PopCorn:  Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians

  • Interpreting:

    What is the intent of the speaker? John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Using examples in which the audience is familiar helps them to interpret what is being said. Exodus 25:28 (KJV) And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them.

  • Evaluating

    Slow to Judge: hold any judgment of the speaker while the person is speaking. I would not say "I like the speaker’s dress" or "the speaker has a terrible message" or "he used bad English". Proverbs 17:28 (KJV) Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. Context: What was the time when this event happened? This helps in understanding the bible.

  • Responding:

    Pause before you respond and think about what you want to say. Frame it in a positive, less shameful way. Remember, you cannot take back that text, email, or sermon. It has gone forever. Proverbs 15:1 (KJV) A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. Respond in your own words:  "Did I hear you correctly?" or "Is this what you said?" Illustration about the boss

When applied, the H U R I E R (Hearing, Understanding, Remembering, Interpreting, Evaluating, Responding) model will help a person control ‘Spare Brain Time’ and learn how to become a better listener and person.

In Closing:

God desires our speech to bring Joy

Ephesians 4:29 (KJV) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is pleasing to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

  • God will help ushave healthy communication skills.
  • Take time to learn healthy listening and communication skills.

Love your neighbor by having good listening skills. The words we speak may be a blessing to your neighbor.


Adler, Rosenfeld, Proctor II, (2011). InterPlay The process of interpersonal communication, Oxford University Press.
Bowe. (2023).Public speaking experts say people with ‘poor speech etiquette’ always use these 7 ‘rude’ phrases. NBC Make it.
Brownell, (1996).  HURIER Listening Profile.  Wiley online.
Cross. (N.D.). Listening skills are vital for an organization. Crossway is consulting Darly Cross.
Lucas, (2018). Com 97% of People Say This Is the Most Toxic Team Behavior. Gusto talk shop.com