Taking a break from talking…REALLY???

woman in a white dress

by Kenneth Justice

~ “It seems as though people love to hear themselves talk

That’s what a young man shared to me recently as three of us were sitting at the café recently enjoying our coffee. The young man was sharing his observation as we were people watching the other patrons hanging out at the café, “Just look at how half of these people keep interrupting each other…everyone seems so obsessed with whatever is going on in their own lives that they never bother to listen to anyone else” he said.

Of course the young man is probably guilty of exaggerating just a bit in his observation….but there is definitely a level of truth in what he was getting at as I’ve written in the past about the lost art of listening.

After I left the café and was heading home I began to think more deeply about the young man’s comments and I remembered my own childhood. Growing up in a hardcore fundamentalist Christian culture it was drilled into my head that “we have the only true answers to save the world“….the ministers who preached at me each Sunday taught us to believe that it was our responsibility to preach at the world in order to save them from eternal hell fire and damnation…..

And to be honest with you….I can’t remember ever hearing one sermon growing up that taught us to learn how to listen to others; how to listen to what people are really saying, about how to learn what their needs truly are……There was practically no emphasis whatsoever in the churches I was raised in on reaching out to people who were in need; the jobless, unemployed, the single mothers, the sick, fill-in-the-blank…….

The only ‘listening’ that the ministers in my churches taught us was to listen to them; to make sure we listened to their sermons and homilies every week in order for us to know how God wanted us to live……it all seems so strange to me now. All the emphasis in church was drilling into our heads the idea that we must preach at people in order to save them. Its pretty strange as I look back on it……

In the past month I’ve received a dozen or so emails on this topic alone from various Christians. They’ve accused me of being ‘soft’ in my Christianity, “Kenneth, you need to talk about hell! If you love people you will tell them they are going to hell unless they turn to God!” is what they’ve said to me.

I always feel weird getting emails like that from Christians because it makes me feel as though they are part of some other religion than the one I know…as though they are part of the religion of my youth; a religion I’m now very disconnected from……its weird to me that they spend so much time emphasizing preaching at other people…..and so little time emphasizing caring for others, helping others, and listening to others.

I try to be careful on my blog not to get bogged down by bible verses because I am not a theologian….there are plenty of other good blogs for those who want to debate the intricacies of the bible and debate it till the wee hours of the morning. I’d rather let professors of theology argue the finer points of the bible.

Have I read the bible; of course I have, I’ve read it cover-to-cover more than a few hundred times and my personal library of theological books and commentaries is in the multiple thousands…..but its simply not my prerogative anymore to argue the bible with people…..I look back at all the hours I spent studying and wonder how much different my life would be if I spent even half of that time reaching out to those who are in need.

Studying the books of our religion is all fine and good…..but in a world where there are so many people in need, who are struggling financially, broken homes, children without parents, widows, fill-in-the-blank…….what I’m trying to say is that in a world with so much need I feel like I might have wasted a little bit too much time in the past reading and studying….and should have spent a tad bit more time reaching out to others.

When I was younger I loved to hear myself talk. I loved talking at people and telling them what I believed was wrong with their belief systems; I debated, I argued, I spent endless hours arguing religion……..because that is the way the churches I attended taught me to act.

But now as I get a little bit older….as I got into my thirties, I simply don’t care to talk at people anymore….I would rather talk with them. I’d rather have positive conversations that build people up rather than tear them down. I’m not out to save-the-world via my religion…..I figure if God wants people to believe something than God can convince them which book to read……

Does all that make me a heretic? Because I don’t want to ramrod the bible down people’s throats does that make me a bad Christian? Well, that is what some Christians tell me…..its what they say when they email me…..but when I look at these ‘Christian’s’ lives, when I listen to them talk about themselves…..I’m not very impressed.

All that is to say…..lately I would rather listen to others than tell them what I have to say…..perhaps that’s why I enjoy reading comments from readers. I enjoy hearing people’s stories and I enjoy hearing from others about what they think about life….because to be quite honest; I already know what I think….so I don’t need to hear myself talk anymore.

I would like to say I could really go for another coffee right now,


Categories: Religion

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50 replies

  1. “I already know what I think….so I don’t need to hear myself talk anymore.” I love this quote. And as for the loving to talk and debate, I went through that phase as well. And then I grew out of it and began listening as well. It’s amazing what you’ll pick up when you aren’t busy talking.
    Also, I want to point out your picture in this post is simply stunning.

  2. Amen. “How to be a bad christian … And a better human being” – Dave Tomlinson. Think you two would enjoy each other’s company for a long coffee.

  3. “Kenneth, you need to talk about hell! If you love people you will tell them they are going to hell unless they turn to God!”
    This is my heretic mind at play. what if this is hell (earth) and it is here we have to show how good we are. to see if we can help the suffering people, the needy or the sick the lonely. what if. All very theoretical 😀
    Guess some rather see a person in hunger and go to hell with them then to feed that needy person.
    I know but it gives to show how one can look in different ways
    One thing is for sure true, we all talk about it preach even and do it to little. Show our good side.

  4. Speak at and speak with is the difference..and this makes any conversation meaningful.

  5. Such an interesting post, Kenneth! Definitely food for thought. It sure is a great idea to listen to people’s stories instead of always throwing words at them. I think we would all benefit from that…

    PS. Wish I could browse through your immense library sometimes. Unfortunately you’re not living that close-by… Any reading tips, however?

    • Reading tips…I wouldn’t know where to begin lol guess it depends on what your particular interest would be….lately I’ve been reading a ton of memoirs; last five favorites were “Jesus camp” (deals with various serious themes; abusive church, abusive parents, rape, molestation,…an incredibly intense and awesome true story), “crazy for god”….”the glass castle”….”smashed”….”the sex lives of cannibals” (not about sex at all…a very funny memoir about living on a rural island in the middle of nowhere)

    • Thanks for the tips! 🙂

    • By the way, do you happen to have any reading tips on books about sharing your faith, esp. with the non-believing ‘world’?

    • No sorry..although I’ve read at least a couple hundred on the subject I don’t care for any of them because they are too focused on “tactics” and my philosophy is focused on loving others…..I do like a lot of what Francis Schaeffer had to say though….his books “true Christianity” and “he is there and he is not silent” influenced me a lot in changing my christian philosophy; he helped move me away from trying to convert people…and more towards loving people 🙂

    • Hmm, well, actually that sounds just about what I’m looking for. I don’t wanna go around preaching to people, but I want to show them God’s love through me… I’ll see if I can find Francis Schaeffer’s books… Thanks a lot!

    • Hi JM792 – a reality check on all this Christianising we get so enthused about for me was: “How to be a bad christian … And a better human being” – Dave Tomlinson (and having already mentioned it here, I must stress I have no connection other than being blown away by the theme and message) Also made me re-think a lot of stuff.

    • Hi Paul, thanks for the tip! I’ll check it out 🙂

  6. What a wonderful coincidence that you would write about listening.
    I taught a music class yesterday and I was interrupted while explaining something and asked, “can we could play more? We all want to play more.”

    Others shook their heads in disagreement, as they were listening to what I was saying.

    In music, and in other areas of life, we have to listen first, and then comment if appropriate. Learning how to listen is fundamental, and yet no one ever wants to practice that fine art.

    Thank you for bringing up the subject.


  7. As a teacher and former guidance counsellor the biggest lesson I learned is that it is more important to listen to people and not talk at them. People who come to you for help usually just need someone who will listen to their side of the story and be non-judgemental.

  8. I definitely learn from listening to you. Thanks.

  9. Looks like we have a big mouth, but small ears.Listening, way to connect. When I listen to my patients, they forget their pain.
    Please, keep in mind that you don’t have to talk to your self, I’m a good listener 😃

    • “when I listen to my patients they forget their pain”

      Excellent observation. I wish more doctors and nurses were taught how to interact better with their patients 🙂

  10. I wish more Christian religions followed your method of loving and helping others first. I feel like we grew up in a similar religion and it, too, pushed me away. I think there are denominations out there that agree with your beliefs and I’ve been trying to find one. I don’t ask for a religious community I 100% agree with. All I want is a places that focuses on love for all first.

  11. I have felt like a “soft Christian” myself. I would much rather show the love of Christ to people in my every day life, in the way I treat them, and help them when I am able. I have seen true atheists come to a belief in God just by my loving them…it makes them see something they want, it starts them thinking, it plants the seed…the rest is up to God. The people already know I believe in heaven and hell. I think you are an amazing person…your blog stories only come about by listening and caring..and that to me is a true Christian.

  12. Nothing to do with Christianity or any kind of belief system: What about when you find yourself needing to speak in order not to fall asleep or die of boredom? Usually I’d be the first one to say that if that is the case, then you are not listening ‘properly’ or not ‘engaging’ in the conversation the way you should be (assuming you can’t quit the conversation out of politeness). But having been in those situations a number of times, and having tried my outmost best to ‘listen’ and ‘engage’, and having failed, I’m afraid I have to admit that as a last resort of politeness, speaking is actually not too bad an option. Or at least there are much worse options.

  13. As a long term ICI (invisible chronic illness) sufferer, I wish more Medicos would listen (and not talk). If they did we’d be a far healthier society. According to statistics, 75% of all patients just want to talk about their problems. I’m lucky enough to have a GP who has the best ‘bedside’ manner imaginable. He listens very carefully and only after you’ve said your piece, does he come back, ask astute questions and then offer his opinion. And, if he doesn’t know the answers, he has the grace and humility to say so and refer you on (to someone more learned in the specific problem).

    Sometimes I wish I was a better listener.

    • I agree. My father listens to me, since he’s got health issues that deal with nerve damage, sort of like me. Some days, we are just comparing notes. Better yet, he’s been coming with me to appointments to docs (usually on days I have trouble getting out of bed, much less drive) and has helped explain things to them. It helps that we have the same physician, too.

      Sometimes, though, a good, solid analogy does wonders in breaking through. Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory is getting me a lot of mileage (not to mention the idea of fighting the whole “But you don’t look sick” sentiment). Found out about it through another blogger, and passed it on to my father– he still says “I’m out of spoons” sometimes.

  14. Everyone seems so obsessed with Escaping their own lives that they never bother to listen to anyone else…

  15. Great photo – for the record 😉

  16. Sometimes we think that our early lives were a waste of time, but I have an idea that those early years are the catalyst that broght us to our current years

  17. culturemonk, since you have read the Bible, I suspect you already know the reason for the problem you describe. The problem is not Christianity. The problem is the sinfulness of people. Even though as Christians may be less inclined to sin than non-Christians, we still sin. We are still a work in progress. We all forget we have two ears and just one mouth.

    Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are to love each other? Don’t we listen to those we love? Can we argue or preach at someone until they become a Christian?

    The Bible does teach that we have a duty to make disciples for Christ. However, the primary way we do that is with our example. Until people want to listen, it does no good to preach. Whether we speak of heaven or hell, when people do not listen it does no good.

    Just the same, expecting preachers not to preach is a bit heartless of you. 😆

    And hell is real. When we have so much of it here, we should know that wherever unrepentant sinners go is going to be a bad place to be..

  18. Great post. I totally hear you on this: “When I was younger I loved to hear myself talk. I loved talking at people and telling them what I believed was wrong with their belief systems.” I now look back with some sadness at how mean-spirited and arrogant I was at times.

    Great post again.

  19. A post the will definitely help you. And one that should illustrate that we also read and research interesting stuff sometimes.
    No thanks necessary, of course, simply consider it another step toward your enlightenment.

    Supplementary material could include anything by archaeologists Israel Finkelstein, Zee’v Herzog, William Devers, and any number of Rabbis.
    Oh, and the bible is always a good to start.

  20. Do you ever get the feeling Kenneth that part of why hardcore “Christians” never listen is because they’re worried the “devil” in the rest of us would infiltrate their lil’ world somehow via words? That was something that just occurred to me. It’s their “duty” to somehow “exorcise” our demons by blasting us with what they believe is true… even though they contradict themselves constantly? Religion aside, people do seem to love to hear themselves talk… a lot. As a society is sure seems like we’re so self-absorbed anymore; it’s grotesque. Part of why I do my volunteering is that I really believe in actions speak louder than words – don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. If anyone really believed in what they said, they would follow through with actions. They can say whatever they want but it’s their actions that will tell me the truth. So sometimes when I come across someone like that, in the end I don’t mind just sitting back and listening because that simple action of their not listening tells me a lot about them. I know how to proceed. 🙂 Just saying.

  21. Well said….and ironically enough our sermon yesterday was based around being a Christian not by preaching, but doing. Starting in our own neighborhoods….listen to the needs of your neighbors….help them. You shine the light by being, showing and doing, not by preaching at people…

  22. Few comments – first -did you really read the bible a few hundred times???? Really?

    anyhow, I like some of the points you make in this post – and Judge Judy used to say we get two ears and one mouth for a specific reason – so we can listen more! Also, I once heard someone say, “when all else fails, use words” — which aligns with what I think you were trying to say in part of this post. I think too often some well-meaning people of faith talk “AT” or “TO” folks instead of (like you said) instead of talking WITH them. And gosh, before we share our faith (which I believe is a gift to share with others) well we have to see where they are are at – and what they would be receptive to! We have to also let the lord lead us because I think we each kind of take part in a chain link connection -and there are times when people have specific questions or want to know specific things (whether that be about hell or heaven with streets of gold – or whether or not some of the spiritual gifts are dead). And while the rte may be times to just coldly share faith, it is often received better when we share and talk with the person – well said.

    also, sometimes I think we can let our witness speak for itself (which you were saying here) – and let our lives, our behaviors, and our friendship represent the Lord – and then if they have questions – well we can answer and respond specifically. There is a purity and integrity in loving people just to love them – and then letting God lead the rest.

    Oh, and the title of your post noted taking a break from talking -and well, a couple of times I have fasted from speaking for a day. Once, I used a small dry erase board to communicate with – and another time a notebook. It really was powerful to do – especially if one is a “talker” –

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