February 22, 1995

The Importance of Being a Good Listener

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Mrs. Job is not the only one who gets a bad rap for an incorrect response to Job's suffering. Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite score equally as bad on the supportiveness scale. But even though their theology was wrong, their approach was flawed, and their sensitivity levels left much to be desired, they actually had the right idea at the beginning.

As soon as they heard about Job's troubles, they left their homes and went at once to comfort him (Job 2:11). When they got there and realized how great his suffering was, Job's three friends simply sat by his side for seven days and seven nights. They didn't have to say a word; their very presence was a comfort to Job.

As they demonstrated when those seven days and nights were over, it is extremely difficult to sit quietly with someone who is going through a hard time. It is our nature to want to fix things, to attempt to encourage, to try to help. But spouting off Bible verses, pat spiritual answers, well-intentioned advice, or stories about the time when we faced something similar can be like pouring salt in a person's wounds. As hard as it may be, many times caring silence is the best thing we can give hurting friends or coworkers.

If your friend wants to talk, mentally tape your mouth shut and just listen. If he doesn't want to talk, just sit there with him and pray quietly. Don't plan out what you're going to say when he asks for your advice; just be quiet. You would hope for the same if you were in his shoes.

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