Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips he is deemed intelligent.
Are you a good listener?
In my experience, most people like to think of themselves as such—myself included. While we might admit that we could grow here and there, few of us would be willing to confess that “we speak volumes, but we listen in snippets” (11). Some of us would probably say we could be better listeners, but that’s still assuming we’re pretty good in the first place.
Adam S. McHugh, author of The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction, would like you to reconsider. The Listening Life is built on the assumption that we aren’t actually good listeners—at least, we’re not as good as we might think we are. McHugh states, “Everyone is talking, but so few people are truly being heard” (12). He then cites “the fact that we pay millions of dollars annually for people to listen to us” for counseling as an indication of “our poverty in this area.”Rather than a “seeing is believing” mindset, Christianity is a more “hearing is believing” way of life.
The core of McHugh’s The Listening Life is aimed at the following question: “How would our relationships change, and how would we change, if we approached every situation with the intention of listening first?” (13) This begins a journey through varied aspects of daily living, beginning with the connection between hearing and doing. Rather than a “seeing is believing” mindset, Christianity is a more “hearing is believing” way of life. McHugh relates his life-changing discovery that “obey” and “listen” share an etymological relationship—an explanation that is well worth a reader’s investment in this book. In short, obedience is a kind of deep listening for all intents and purposes. We listen first to the God who speaks to us through His word, and then live by his words to truly experience life.
Building upon this foundation, McHugh reorients readers to the God who listens to us. While we are the creatures who listen, we do so because we are made in the image of a Creator who listens. A sad truth of Christianity may very well be that we think we are good listeners while God isn’t. Instead, it is often the exact opposite. Fortunately, The Listening Life traces a way forward that helps us grow in our listening habits.
One area where listening truly breaks down is the internet. As McHugh explains:
The great hope of the Internet has been that dialogue will prevail, that people with different theologies, worldviews and politics will log in to learn, grow and communicate with those who disagree with them. Yet it would seem that social media has helped people connect with like-minded people, and the unfortunate consequence has been the intensifying and radicalizing of beliefs and the deeper entrenchment of people’s beliefs. (11)
Part of Christ and Pop Culture’s mission is to see this great hope actualized. Through thoughtful and nuanced analysis of cultural trends and artifacts, and by offering members books like The Listening Life and fostering a vibrant members community on social media, we seek to break down barriers of misunderstanding and encourage charitable dialogue by listening first. McHugh’s The Listening Life offers a great service to Christians. We are too often identified by our open mouths rather than open ears. McHugh’s book cautions us, and walks us through the sanctification of listening, lest we ignore our very own Proverbs and continue as fools.