A few years ago, during a time of fellowship in our home, there were about a dozen of us chatting and such before the “bible study.” A young man had asked if he could share something that was on his heart, and of course, we all encouraged him to do so. He began to share the testimony of where he came from, his mother’s death, his father’s abandonment, and his difficulties in growing as a Christian. It was deeply moving. But, there was a problem…
You see, he didn’t know how to express himself very well, and from my standpoint, he was taken up too much time. I wanted him to ”get to the point.” There was, after all, a bible study to conduct. My patience wore thin and my anger grew. I’m not sure exactly what erupted from my mouth, but it was something like “WHEN ARE WE GOING TO GET TO THE POINT OF WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO SAY???”
It was then a fellow pastor, one of the most humble ones I know, looked at me with this penetrating sort of sadness and said, “Brother Miguel, don’t you think that Jesus wants us to bear one another’s burdens?” (Galatians 6:2) OUCH! I’ve been rebuked before, but this was something different, something powerful, and something that brought instant repentance.
I’ll admit that I’m not a very good listener. I like brevity. I’m not a talking for talking’s sake kinda guy. I love twitter! 140 characters to say what you’ve got to say and get out. Sometimes I wish that people could only speak tweets. After all, proverbs says, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” (Proverbs 10:19) It’s Holy to be a man of few words, isn’t it? I mean, people shouldn’t be allowed to whine and vent ad infinitum, should they?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. This is no fulfillment of our obligation, and it is certain that here too our attitude toward our brother only reflects our relationship to God. It is little wonder that we are no longer capable of the greatest service of listening that God has committed to us, that of hearing our brother’s confession, if we refuse to give ear to our brother on lesser subjects. Secular education today is aware that often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to him seriously, and upon this insight it has constructed its own soul therapy, which has attracted great numbers of people, including Christians. But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.” ~ Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community.
You might have to go back and read that a couple of times in order for it to soak in.
The scriptures say, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19) Seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?
David Hayward, AKA “nakedpastor,” recently said, “some people might choose to be angry their whole lives. It’s their right to be. They can be angry for as long as they feel they need. But I have also seen, when people are given the right, the space and the opportunity to vent, that in time they find room to forgive and move on.”
Some extend or multiply their words because of hurt, others because they feel as if they don’t have a voice, or just aren’t listened to. On the other hand, there are folks who simply talk too much and are always saying the wrong things. Regardless, it seems that whining or venting is something that followers of Christ should not try to squelch. Or should they?
A few questions:
1. When, if ever, is it appropriate to stop someone from whining or venting?
2. Is there a Christlike way to whine and vent?
3. How do you personally balance the proclamation of the gospel and genuinely listening to people?
 Richard Clark and the Preemption of Anger Blog Post