To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame.
Strong but true words. We do this on different levels. There is the surface level in which we actually begin answering before the person has completed the question, only to find that we wrongly anticipated what the question would be. “No, that is not what I was trying to ask.”
We give unasked for answers, such as when a person is sharing a concern, and we take it upon ourselves to give solutions when all the person wanted was a listening ear. “Thank you, but I already know what to do.”
And there is the level in which a question has been asked, and we miss the target in our response. “No, you don’t understand.” And the reason we don’t understand is that we did not hear well. This might be for a number of reasons. The person did not articulate himself well, thus misleading us. But we could have dealt with that by asking good questions first that helped the person communicate better. Quite often the reason we do not hear well is that we are formulating an answer while the person is still communicating. We don’t want to be caught without a wise answer, so we begin thinking through a reply while he is still speaking.
Don’t worry about having answers. It is better not to have an answer than to have a wrong one. If you must disappointed your inquirer, it is better to disappoint by confessing that you do not know the answer, rather than to disappoint by leading the person astray and making the matter more befuddling and leading to greater shame.
But you are more likely to have a wise answer if your primary concern is to listen well. Take the time to listen. Ask good questions. Do not be in a hurry to reply. And most importantly, pray for wisdom. You will be surprised by the answers that you did not have the wisdom for but was given at the right time by the Holy Spirit.
1 Timothy 3
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
8 In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
11 In the same way, the women[c] are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Reasons for Paul’s Instructions
14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,[d]
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.