Last night after church, I spent some time chatting with my pastor’s wife. Every time I have a conversation with her, I walk away thinking, “Wow! That was a lot of wisdom.” She often shares her thoughts on what they’ve learned in decades of ministry. When it comes to learning, you can go out and do it the hard way or you can find someone who’s been there and done that and listen. I try to soak in as much as I can when I’m around her because I know the best way to get wisdom is to be around wise people.
Most of us don’t take the time to stop and listen to others who have gone on ahead of us. We think we know the best way and that their way is outdated. The truth is, the trail of life is the same, just the scenery has changed. People are still people and do what they’ve done for centuries. Those who are older than us or who have gone down paths that we’re on have wisdom to share, but we rarely want to hear it.
I like to talk. Ok I love to talk and I’m not afraid to strike up an hour long conversation with a complete stranger. What I’m not great at is listening. I’m not sure how many of us really are. What I’ve learned is that listening is more important than talking especially when someone is trying to pour out wisdom into your life. It’s difficult for me to stay quiet and to not try to jump in when someone else is talking. I’ve noticed that when I do that, the conversation leaves it’s original intention and heads down bunny trails.
I don’t think bunny trails are bad, but when I cause them, I miss out on valuable insight from someone willing to give it. James 1:19 tells us we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. There’s a saying in sales that I love. It says, “No one ever listened themselves out of a sale.” Our mouths are what get us in trouble and keep us from learning. James understood that. He followed that verse up with the thoughts that it’s not enough to just listen. We have to go do what we’ve learned after we’ve listened.
Applying wisdom is another difficult thing. We have the mentality that our way is the right way. We think, “That was good for their path, but this is good for my path.” We have to learn how to take the wisdom that someone gives us and then apply it to our lives in a way that keeps us from learning the hard way. I’ve learned plenty of lessons from the School of Hard Knocks. I prefer the School of Shut Up, Listen and Learn. It’s a lot less painful.
Solomon said, “If you want to be wise, walk with the wise” in Proverbs 13:20. To me, that means we need to spend time with those who have more wisdom than we do. Take time today to think of someone in your life who has tried to give you wisdom, but you’ve failed to listen to or have distracted the conversation. Find a way to sit and spend an hour or so with them on a regular basis. Take notes on the conversation and write down questions instead of interrupting them. Your life will become better for it and I can attest that it will be a lot less painful.