January 28, 2022

Listen With Empathy

Written by Boyd Bailey

When someone asks “what do you think”, filter your words with, what does the Bible say about this?”

Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – January 28, 2022

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

Sometimes I catch myself parsing another’s words to make sure he is not saying something untrue about me. My desire for his precision (or probably perfection) in speech is really a smoke screen for my own insecurities in feeling disrespected. My pride and ego are bruised when I am dinged by revealing accurate assumptions about my motivations. Instead of quickly defending myself, I am learning to listen more and speak less. Listen with empathy to another’s heart. What is really behind her words? How can I learn from what she feels and become a better version of me?

James understood the danger of mindlessly spouting off unfiltered opinions in contrast to disciplined thinking governed by God’s Word. The Scripture is the source of the Spirit’s wisdom and discernment. When someone asks “what do you think”, filter your words with, what does the Bible say about this? Listen first to what the Lord says about a matter and your words that follow will build up not tear down. Empathy born out of humility is the most helpful way to speak truth. 

If you keep talking, it won’t be long before you’re saying something really wrong. Prove you’re wise from the very start—just bite your tongue and be strong” (Proverbs 10:19, TPT)!

When a friend or spouse honestly asks about your actions or inactions, how do you reply? If being defensive is your default, ask yourself, before you speak, how can I respond with empathy, to truly understand and learn how to love better? For example, your spouse may say, I don’t feel like you really hear what I am saying. A non-defensive, empathic response would be, I’m sorry for not paying attention as I should, please forgive me and let’s have a do over, so I can really listen and understand you. To listen with empathy is to engage, comprehend and confirm what another person just said. To have a caring conversation does not mean you agree with everything discussed. But it does mean your empathy provides a safe environment for all to speak freely.

Anger shuts down relational trust, so hit the emotional pause button and pray before you say something you later regret. Pride and ego do not like to be questioned, while humility invites clarity and correction. To listen with empathy is to really know the other person and affirm her feelings. Affirmation is not agreement, but when someone feels understood, it builds trust and respect, which becomes fertile ground for relational intimacy. Empathic listening shows love! 

“Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong” (Job 6:24).


Heavenly Father, give me ears to hear with a heart of empathy, through Christ’s love and in Jesus’ name, amen.


What conversations are hard for me, how can I grow more empathic?

Related Reading

Proverbs 17:28, 21:23; Matthew 5:22; James 3:2-12

Worship Resource

Audrey Assad: Holy, Holy, Holy


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