Thirty or 40 years ago, a new rave of communication was given broad usage among the common public. It was called the citizens band (CB) radio. Some of you will remember the signature line for someone seeking to talk with another person with a CB radio, “Anybody got your ears on?” Because the channels were public, this was a person’s way of getting someone to listen and answer them.
In the public arena of politics and, frankly, our own Southern Baptist politics, I just want to shout, “Anybody got your ears on?” I would have to shout because everybody else is shouting! One would hope to be heard above the noise.
In our public discourse, it seems everybody’s mouths are open, but not too many ears are “on.” We are so busy expressing our disagreements that we cannot hear the other person speaking. This happens in marriage, business relationships, church relationships, denominational life and, without question, in the politics of our nation.
I should know—I am a talker. If we are honest, we do not hear others because we are bursting to tell them our point of view. We jump to conclusions without hearing the other person’s perspective and without seeking to understand or to hear their heart. We are not interested in their view—just the opportunity to make our view known.
What is missing is a good dose of humility. Humility keeps us from thinking too highly of ourselves and our opinions. Humility places others above ourselves. Humility does not mean I must agree with another person’s point of view, but it does mean I am willing to listen. I am willing to hear beyond the words to the message of their heart.
One of the techniques I learned in counseling class in seminary was the art of silence. When others are struggling to pour out their hearts, yell their frustrations and communicate their strong opinions, the counselor serves the person best by “having his ears on.”
When a person pauses or becomes emotional, it is okay to remain silent. You do not have to fill the air with your words, analysis or prescription for resolution. Just let the person empty himself and his emotional tank before you try to fix anything.
It would be good if, in this angry, arrogant, polarized world of politics and denominational struggle, people would put their “ears on” before engaging their mouths. Okay, so this needs to include me and you.
There is a real need for statesmen to step to the forefront of the Southern Baptist Convention. Men who are humble, listen to others and seek the common good. Yes, even men who are willing to concede personal preferences but not compromise biblical convictions. Men who are willing to look each other in the eye and admit they just might be wrong.
The perpetuation of divide among the young and restless and older leaders is unnecessary. Struggle for understanding and unity, yes, but divide, no. For example, racial division has no place in our denomination, but to prevent it will demand humility and openness to others.
Maybe this is the time we find those good buddies “who have their ears on” to lead us toward one another rather than apart. I am thankful that in Oklahoma we are listening to one another, which is why unity prevails.