August 12, 2022

Compassionate Listening

Written by Boyd Bailey

Compassionate listening makes room for differences without ignoring or dismissing the other person’s ideas.”

Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – August 12, 2022

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

On a whim it is easy for an inflated ego to blurt out, “I disagree with you, what you said is not true.” Instead of attack mode, what if the ego was deflated with a statement like, “Just to clarify, what I hear you saying is…” And maybe there is disagreement and that’s ok. Or, maybe there was an unclear statement or a listening ear that did not clearly hear…if so, a gracious exchange could make room for clarification in an understanding dialogue. Compassionate listening is able to get beyond being right to respecting another view, perhaps learning something new and in the process offering an alternative perspective. Love and respect facilitate constructive conversations.

Henri Nouwen brings heart to this process of compassionate listening with care: “To care is to enter into the world of those who are only touched by hostile hands, to listen attentively to those whose words are only heard by greedy ears, and to speak gently with those who are used to harsh orders and impatient requests.” To speak gently with those who are so sure of their view is to give them a safe space to let down their guard and take a relational risk to seek understanding. 

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1:5).

Are you able to listen compassionately without jumping to conclusions? When you think the other person is wrong do you immediately dismiss them? The skill of compassionate listening comes to those who abide in Christ and seek to first understand before having to be understood. A prayerful, humble attitude does not go directly to attack mode rather tries to defuse the dialogue so both parties can talk without interruption. Anger is left out in the cold where there are warm words of mutual respect and love. Marriages that grow in the skill of compassionate listening are men and women who learn to thrive and grow together. They can pull in the same direction even with diverse views on vital topics like money, parenting and relationships. 

Compassionate listening makes room for differences without ignoring or dismissing the other person’s ideas. It’s out of our differences that we all become better versions of what God expects of us.  If you have to always be right that is wrong and if you never admit your wrong that’s not right. Listening with compassion will give you a new approach to life. You will smile more. You will laugh more. You will be a more joyful person. People will want to be around you instead of avoiding you. Study how Jesus listens to those who are so sure—He loves, then clarifies. 

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).


Heavenly Father, slow me down to be a skilled, compassionate listener, through Christ’s love and in Jesus’ name, amen.


Who can I grow to love in respect for her views though they differ from mine?

Related Reading

Proverbs 8:34, 18:13; 21:28, 25:12; James 3:3-12

Worship Resource

We the Kingdom feat. Bethel Music: Peace


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