Peace in the Home #1: Listen First. Then Talk.
Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. Proverbs 18:13.
I am both stupid and rude. Occasionally.
A few nights ago, I woke at 3:00 am and wandered into the kitchen to kill my diet. A repetitive clicking sound reverberated from the freezer. CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK. I opened the freezer and discovered a chunk of frozen elk steak, courtesy of my son-in-law, Zach the Elk Hunter, jammed in the automatic icemaker.
As I freed it from its confines, it slipped and crashed onto the linoleum floor with a fantastic BANG! Unfazed, I reorganized the freezer, reset the ice maker, and reloaded the elk steak.
No more clicking. Job well done. I felt like a genius.
Wandering back to bed, I found my wife sitting up, alert and ready for action. She was worried (not without good reason) I’d fallen, or banged my head, or fallen out of a first story window, or woken up the kids. I saw the anxiety on her face but was so pleased with myself for actually fixing something without calling a plumber; I went on the offensive.
Before she could exhale I blurted, “What’s wrong with you? I fixed the icemaker! No more clicking. I’m a genius.”
I devalued and embarrassed her.
Instead of kindness, listening and assuring my worried wife that she didn’t need to call 911, I had to be large and in charge. And in reality, I was lazy and selfish. I didn’t want to take two minutes to let her explain and unwind.
Trust me. It takes far more time and energy to apologize and rebuild goodwill.
Sometimes, I am stupid and rude.
James wrote, “Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” (James 1:19(a) MSG)
But though I’m slow, I’m learning, God help me. The risk of misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and offense skyrockets when I speak first and listen second. And when I lead with my big-fat-mouth, I disrupt the peace in our home.
Invariably I jump to wrong conclusions and misread facial cues when I don’t listen first and carefully. It makes me look out-of-touch and foolish, a caricature of a TV dad.
Peace, shalom in the home, attracts the Lord’s presence and good favor. There’s a Hebrew term for it. Beit Shalom. House of Peace. The absence of strife and contention. Giving one another pride of place. Honor and service. And dads bear the greatest burden to maintain Beit Shalom. IMHO.
My adult kids don’t want my rapid-fire brilliant solutions. Mostly they want me to focus and take them seriously. Treat them as mature human beings.
Same with my friends and colleagues. They need my full and undivided attention to vent and verbally process.
And my wife wants me to listen to her life. Not solve it.
“With God, all things are possible,” Jesus said.
I believe it. I will be slow to speak.