The Importance of Listening

I call it, “the bull elephant trumpeting the herd.” Know what I mean? I’m thinking about the person who comes into a meeting at work, or worse yet, at church who has all the answers and is bound and determined to make sure everybody in the room knows it. He is not there to listen or seek to understand; he is there simply to stir the pot and leave others to clean up his mess as he makes his grand exit.

“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

Proverbs 13:10

Merriam-Webster defines strife, “(1) bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension; (2) exertion or contention for superiority.” Why does one behave this way, especially in professional and church settings? This is where pride rears its ugly head. Pride tells a person he must always be right. Pride tells a person she must always be the smartest in the room. Pride tells a person that the people in the meeting with him are of small importance and have little to offer. Pride says, “I will speak, you will listen.” In the church and in business, such behavior not only impedes progress, but it needlessly builds dissention and disunity – both of which can destroy a church and a business if allowed to take root. “Don’t be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

In his book and seminar entitled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey famously said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This, my friends, is wisdom. Wisdom casts personal pride aside and puts to interests of the group first. Wisdom looks around the room, sees value in everybody present, and earnestly seeks to hear what they have to say. Wisdom says, “I know I don’t have all the answers, but these people can help me discern the right path.” Wisdom seeks truth and understanding before forming opinions about what to say or what strategy to deploy. Wisdom listens first, asks meaningful questions, and thanks the team for their contributions. “Be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

Which Jeff will I bring to work today? The prideful, arrogant Jeff (he’s there, trust me)? Or the wise, discerning Jeff (he’s there too, thank God). I seek wisdom for my life through God’s Word and the counsel of Christian friends whom I trust. Through this, I am equipped to leave the prideful, arrogant me in the background as I seek to lead my team with kindness, love, and – yes – wisdom. Time to go to work.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

The Way of a Fool

Have you ever seen a person headed down the wrong path, making decisions in a vacuum, and knowing that this will lead nowhere good? I have, and it can be painful to watch.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Proverbs 12:15

Merriam-Webster offers this definition of a fool: “A person lacking in judgment or prudence.” I call it, “flying blind.”

I have learned over the years, sometimes the hard way, that my idea of how to solve a problem or approach a difficult situation is not necessarily the best idea. I used to be somewhat bull-headed, not always the best listener, and at some point down the course I charted for myself found that I was not where I had intended to be. It is sometimes the School of Hard Knocks at which we learn some of our most valuable life lessons.

Strong leaders are not bull-headed. They do not “fly blind.” They do not chart a course without first gathering all the facts and examining possible options. Strong leaders do not abuse their titles. Do you know people who do this? Have you ever been in a meeting at which the most senior person in the room belligerently states his unfounded opinion as the subject matter experts try to help him see the light? But, through self-importance, pride, or something else, he just will not listen? I have, and sometimes it can almost be comical watching a person make a fool of himself even when I have been the target of another’s belligerence. “Big title, small mind,” I’m tempted to think.

That is exactly the behavior addressed in this Proverb. I am blessed to work with an incredible team of very smart people. Sometimes, difficult situations arise. I am a fool if I address those situations on my own without seeking their counsel and advice. I have experienced countless situations in which the brightest and best idea comes from a surprising source. Strong leaders tap into the talent that surrounds him or her. Setting pride aside, the leader listens to subject matter experts, weights the options, and reaches an informed decision on how to proceed. The strong leader then gives credit where credit is due.

For me, this is a constant life lesson. I am thankful for this reminder from God’s Word on this Monday morning. Now it’s time to take on the week!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Finding Meaning

Drudgery. Minutia. Routine. Unimportant. Unappreciated. Boring.

Do you ever feel this way about your work? Do you ever wonder why you show up each day to do the same darn things only to have nobody notice or appreciate your efforts? Do you find yourself saying, “I hate my job,” or, worse yet, “My life has no meaning.” I know people who feel this way and my heart breaks for them.

“Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

Proverbs 16:3

If you’re feeling this way, I want you to ask yourself who it is you serve. For whom do you work? Had you asked me this question a few years ago I would have answered with the name of a company or the name of my boss. But in reading God’s Word, my perspective has changed. Yes, my employer provides a paycheck. But I work for the Lord.

The masters we serve in the world are imperfect. Executives sometimes make poor decisions. Bosses are sometimes hard to work with. We see unfairness and injustice in the world around us. And when we are touched directly by such things, as I have been, our attitude may become negative and our productivity may decrease. In contrast, the Master we ultimately serve is Almighty. He is kind, gracious and merciful. Always. In every circumstance. We are to approach everything we do as being done for Him. Because it is.

The beauty of this proverb is that its truth extends beyond our employment, and it includes a promise. “Works” here contemplates all that we do – our daily work, our morning routine, our evenings and our weekends. Indeed, this proverb reminds us that we are to commit our very lives to the Lord.

Note the promise: “…and your plans will be established.” The passive verb here is important. God doesn’t tell us that we will establish our plans. No – He tells us that He will establish our plans! Contrary to what many modern-day thought leaders will tell you, life’s purpose does not come from within. It cannot be established by reading self-help books or even through self-determination. Life’s purpose is found in the Lord. When we commit our lives to the Lord, our plans become His plans – actually, His plans become our plans. We are aligned with our Lord. The pressure is off! If that’s not a gift, I don’t know what a gift is! Praise God!

Dear friend, if you are one for whom your life’s work, or even your life itself, is unsatisfying and unfulfilling, ask God to change your heart. To whom (or Whom) are you committed? If your commitment rests with anyone but the Lord, why not consider making Him your life’s focus? Commit your works, indeed your very life, to Him. Seek Him through reading His Word and prayer. There are a plethora of Bible reading plans that can help you get started, including many in your local Christian book store and on YouVersion Bible App.

God is waiting. He is available. He will provide. He will establish your purpose. He will work it out. For you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com (2019)