I have never been someone who needed to talk a lot. I am an introvert and so don’t tend to talk to sort things out – I sort them out inside. If necessary, I write my thoughts down in my journal so that they become clearer. Someone once said (I think Dawson Trotman) that “thoughts and feelings disentagle themselves through the lips and the finger tips.” I have chosen, when needed, the finger tip route – writing in my journal.
I have always been a people watcher. I can go to a coffee shop by myself and simply watch people. People are facinating, amazing, wonderfully different. Yes, at times they are stupid and annoying but then I am not watching the ones I now but total srangers so I don’t know this about them yet. So, I can sit for hours and simply watch people as they come and go, interact with those at the counter when placing their order, when sitting with friends or those they work with having a coffee break.
I am a good listener – I sit by the hour and listen as people I love share their lives with me. I hear their pain, their anxiety, their hope and excitment, their plans and their dreams. I don’t have any need to jump in and share my life with them or to interrupt and communicate a parallel situation to the one they are sharing. If they ask me and if I think it will help them – certainly I will share. But otherwise I am seriously content to simply and lovingly listen, absorb, and either rejoice or weep.
There is no driving need in me to talk – to sort things through verbally, to feel good about myself, to be on public display. I realize that should I share something about my life when not asked I risk boring my listener. If asked – totally different situation. Unlike a lot of people I listen to I am not my favorite subject. Jesus is. So, I simply listen and try to understand and relate to what I am hearing so that, if opportunity arises, I can share Jesus – not necessarily what He has done in my life but who He is and what He has done for the person I am listening to. If it would help to relate briefly (key word – briefly) the night-and-day difference He has made in my life (1 Peter 2:9) I certainly don’t hesitate to do so. But, only if and only briefly.
I learned early in my Christian walk that this was a safe and biblical way to live my life. Jesus said we will be held accountable for every idle (Greek: non-productive) word we speak. So, I make my words few. Gossip is bearing false witness (speaking it or listening to it) and thus a sin (breaking of one of the Ten Commandments). So, I am very confidential with what I hear and know. The book of Proverbs has much to say about words and their power to damage and wound. So, I carefully guard my mouth.
Researchers tell us that most people speak about 16,000 words a day. If you transcribe those words, they’d fill a three-hundred-page book every week. (Matthias R. Mehl w.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/317/5834/82). I wonder how many of those are “idle” and non-productive. I don’t wonder how much is gossip as it is fairly evident.
I have also found that when someone is known as a good listener and is not always talking about themselves – that when they do speak up others actually tune in and listen. That’s important when sharing the Gospel.