When I read this proverb, I immediately was reminded of a problem that I have when it comes to listening skills. There are times in a conversation with others that I don't listen as closely as I should. What I do is begin to frame in my mind what I am going to say next - before the other person has finished what they are saying. Another problem I have is that at times I won't wait for someone to finish what they are saying - because I have convinced myself that I know what they are going to say or finish saying. Thus I interrupt and rudely start with what I want to say. Whether this is a common malady among people is not for me to say. What I can say though is that my lack of listening skills has hurt me from time to time exactly like this proverb says. I have either been seen as a fool for speaking before I heard the other person - or - I've made had to be ashamed later of something that I've said when listening more intently would have delivered me from the embarassment of that situaiton.
Why would we speak before we hear? Well, since this is one of my own sins, I feel that I am somewhat an authority on the "whys" of it. I speak before I listen because I am filled with pride. I think what I have to say has to be far more important than what the other person is saying at the time. I consider myself smarter and better informed - or I'm just rude and do not value what someone else has to say. The one thing I am sure of is that whatever my reasons, they do not hold water - and certainly do not survive the Philippians 2 test (consider others better than yourself). Lack of character on my part is the overwhelming answer here.
I remember one incident that woke me up to my lack of listening skills. It was a time when I was witnessing to students at the University of Memphis. One student invited us into his room to talk. As we shared I was amazed at his ability to concentrate on whatever was being said at the time. At first I equated this to the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing him to Christ. But after three visits I was seeing the same thing again and again. Finally, I couldn't resist asking him why he seemed so interested in what we were saying when we came to visit. His answer blew me away. He said that over the past couple of years he had consciously worked on listening intently to whatever conversation he was a part of so that he could better know what to say - and when to keep his mouth shut.
What astounded me about this interview was that he was not a believer - yet his character far better reflected love than mind did when it came to listening to others. Those visits did far more to change me than I think they changed him. I was confronted with my horrible lack of listening skills and how they had brought both shame and foolishness to me. I remember making a commitment to develop the kind of skills this young man had. But what motivated me most was remembering the way that talking to him made me feel. His concentration on what I had to say made me feel important - and yes - loved. It was and is a reminder to me to this very day that listening well to someone is vitally important. It can mean the difference between them feeling loved - or - feeling like they are talking to someone rude and foolish. As someone who longs to be wise, it is my hope to give an answer ONLY after I've heard - not just with my ears, but with understanding and love.