I hate talking points. It seems that in every area of debate each side has their points, their pat arguments that must be aired at all cost. We see this in politics as each side of the political spectrum uses pre-determined phrases over and over again. I’m not talking slogans here but responses to probing questions. We see this in racial and social justice issues as sides build grievances into an impenetrable siege wall. We even see it in Christian circles when lines are drawn over an issue, doctrine, or method. This is invariably worse because the weapon (the talking points) used is God’s Word. So here’s some sanity from the Book of Proverbs.
“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2, NLT) I think that the key word is “only.” It’s perfectly fine to have an opinion on something. But a fool fortifies themself with opinion and will rarely even cotton to hearing another. It’s like this – they love chocolate, and everyone who doesn’t is an ignorant fool. They are a one-way street that goes nowhere.
“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (Proverbs 18:13, NLT) So shut up and listen. Sorry if that offended but we need to turn off our mouths and turn on our ears. And I don’t mean that we should just be quiet to let someone else have a say while we plot our next move. I mean that we should really listen. Take time to learn the feelings, facts, and fears of the “other side.” Read a book or two that are outside your bubble. Drop in on news outlets that do not lean your direction. Listening does not mean agreement, but it is a means of opening doors long barred and barricaded.
“Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15, NLT) Have an attitude of humility – be willing to be wrong. Or at the very least be willing to bend. Notice that the Proverb says knowledge and not a rumor, hearsay, gossip, self-confirming opinion, or speculation. How often have people fought over ghosts of ideas; wisps of words without substance? Be ready to learn and have open ears that can discern folly from fact. Who knows? The one piece of information you need may come from an unexpected and previously unlistened to source.
Now bring this all home – literally. This whole stream of thought applies at home as well as in the larger areas previously mentioned. As James put it, “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, NLT) Put down the phone, ignore the text message that demands an immediate response, close the computer, put down the book, lay aside the hobby, look them in the eyes and listen. Set aside your own agenda and strive to understand the feelings, facts, and fears of your parent, spouse, or child. Ask questions, listen to answers. Clarify where needed. Agree on what is being said before offering your thoughts, opinion, or counterpoints. None of us wants to be counted with the fools so listen up.