By Irvin Himmel
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him (Prov. 18:13).
This terse verse merits meditation. The lessons suggested by it should be of concern to all who want to serve God and be of help to mankind.
A Sad Fact
Sometimes when two people are trying to discuss opposing views, one displays rudeness by interrupting the other repeatedly. This discourtesy reflects a simple problem- There is a greater desire to reply to the other person than to hear his side of the matter.
Snap judgments are made relative to subjects and problems which ought to be weighed and studied carefully. It is a sad fact that many people are swift to draw conclusions before investigating.
Some people are quick to speak about things concerning which they know precious little, and to criticize the motives of others. James said, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Jas. 1: 19). The wisdom of this course should be self-evident.
Why Some People Answer Before Hearing
(1) Pride. Inordinate self-esteem makes certain individuals stubborn and tenacious in their wrong views. They may deceive themselves into thinking that they are thinking when they are only rearranging their prejudices to bolster their ego.
Such persons may pride themselves on their ability to size up an individual or situation from the outset. In their conceit they suppose that they can draw the right conclusions without examining facts. How little do they realize that most first impressions are notoriously inaccurate.
(2) Impatience. Some “minds cannot bear anything that requires close and long-sustained attention. They become uneasy, fretted, and fidgety; and are ever anxious to catch at any occasion for cutting the matter short and being done with it” (Ralph Wardlaw).
Learning the whole truth is sometimes a rather tedious process. It requires neither time nor effort to leap to a conclusion without learning what one should know before reaching a determination in his own mind. Before answering a matter, give yourself time.
(3) Partiality. A person who is partial to a particular view is tempted to weigh the facts with his thumb on the scales! Some are not really honest in their handling of the Scriptures on certain points. They tend to bend and twist the word of God to make it say what they desire to hear.
When two people are alienated from each other, some who pretend to seek information so they can help achieve reconciliation are interested only in what supports their personal preference. A mediator needs to be without bias, and this is seldom the case unless he is equally related to both parties. Partiality is a barrier to candid listening.
(4) Laziness. Prejudice is a lazy person’s substitute for thinking. He does not want to put out the mental energy necessary to learn the truth, so he forms an opinion which he voices strongly, but there is nothing to support his point of view.
In religion, some had rather drift along with whatever traditions they have inherited than to search the Scriptures. “A minimum of evidence and maximum of prejudice contribute to form the faith of many people” (W. F. Adeney).
(5) Reliance on feelings. “I can’t prove it, but I have a feeling,” says someone. Feelings are feelings and facts are facts, and the former cannot change the latter. While we rebuke our religious neighbors for following their feelings rather than the Bible, many of us talk a lot about our hunches and nebulous notions when we ought to keep quiet unless we have solid evidence.
Some Christians are strongly opinionated and highly vocal about their opinions. Blessed is the man who can keep his personal opinions to himself and not attempt to bind them on others!
The Art of Listening
“A listening ear leads straight to an understanding heart” (Andrew W. Blackwood, Jr.). No case can be decided correctly without the truth and the whole truth. We should be willing to hear all sides of a question.
Digging for facts is much better exercise than jumping to conclusions. After “fact-finding” comes “fact-facing.” Naked truth can be embarrassing, but we must develop the art of listening before speaking. And after we have gathered the facts, let us have the courage to face up to the truth.
Nicodemus said to the other Pharisees, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51) Many of the Jewish leaders were more interested in condemning Jesus than in hearing his case.
The New English Bible translates this proverb as follows: “To answer a question before you have heard it out is both stupid and insulting.”
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 14, p. 422
July 16, 1987