10 Reasons Why No One Listens to Each Other Anymore

young woman with hands over hears wearing a mask, not listening anymore

Most Christians and a lot of non-Christians can quote James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Yet, this scripture is one of the most challenging commands to heed. We are more likely to speak quickly, become angry in a heartbeat, and listen as a last resort. We have become a society of people who speak a lot, spend even more time being angry, and do not listen anymore.

We miss the point of this passage if we do not include verse 20: “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” The progression is evident. When we become active listeners engaging with grace and humility, we practice wisdom and self-control. However, if we flip the instructions and ignore the command to listen quickly and choose instead to speak first, the doorway to anger is flung open. God instructs us to listen even to those we do not want to hear. If that’s the case, why are we not listening anymore?

Why do we speak first and listen later, risking misunderstanding, causing hurt and fracturing relationships, and being carried off into anger?

Here are 10 possible reasons we are not listening to each other anymore.

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  • mom looking stressed and overwhelmed by children and work, people don't listen to each other

    1. Distractions


    There are so many things that vie for our attention. Children, spouses, careers, church activities, sports, social media, and a thousand responsibilities keep us busy, and the list is growing. We are a hurry-up-and-get-it-done, check-it-off-my-list culture, often multitasking and expecting others to do the same. The reality is, we cannot do multiple things at one time well. We can do one thing at a time better.

    When you have the opportunity to listen to someone who needs to be heard, stop, and drop the distractions. Put down the phone, silence the noise, and engage in the moment. Listen carefully and thwart the compulsion to interrupt and interject. Giving someone your full attention and carefully listening is an act of love.

    Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

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    2. Overload


    Distractions are one of the many external issues that undermine our ability to listen to others. Information overload is a close second. There are so many sources of information, our minds are often on overload. Multiple social media platforms, news stations, and streaming stations and our phones and computers bombard us with information. How can we think with so much information to discern?

    Finding our focus calls for hitting the "off" button and learning to decide what is important. When we seek God first, and not worldly information, our hearts and minds are clear to hear others well.

    “Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:2 NIV)

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  • woman holding up handful of dollar bills

    3. Idolatry


    There are many loud voices in the world today. Celebrities and media personalities clamor to be heard, and sometimes we listen to their views over those of our neighbors, loved ones, and God. The influential people we hear can become those we praise for wise words and insight. Even evangelical voices can become idols when we listen to them over God.

    Do you listen to famous and worldly people over your family, friends, and loved ones, depending on their opinions over God's word? Do you dismiss the admonition of sisters and brothers in Christ because you follow worldly voices? If so, then idolatry may be a barrier to hearing God and others. God is the only one worthy of our praise and worship, leaving us with only ears for Him and others.

    “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods”. (1 Chronicles 16:25)

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  • two women sitting on couch with crossed arms looking upset and angry, people don't listen to each other

    4. Disunity


    These days we are a society of two sides. We think, "they have their beliefs, and I have mine,” or, "They have their opinions, and I have mine." We cannot find common ground and therefore do not listen. We would rather not hear a differing opinion because we want to keep ours. Agreeing with every position is not the answer, either.

    Remembering that we are all God's children and forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus makes us all the same. With that in mind, can we take a moment to listen to the other side? To hear their position, without holding up our hand in opposition? Imagine the bridges built by listening to the other side.

    Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind" (1 Peter 3:8)

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  • Younger and older woman having an argument

    5. Power Struggles


    The biggest problem the Pharisees and Sadducees had with Jesus was His threat to their power. The truth Jesus spoke would demolish their high position and control over the people of Israel. Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah, yet they were looking for a warrior, someone with evident power and strength. They did not under stand that His strength came in the form of humility and obedience. We cannot hear our neighbors who we are to love if we are afraid of losing our power. As long as we maintain the louder voice and the angrier stance, we believe we are in control. Listening requires us to let go of our false control and surrender.

    “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:3)

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  • Hands pointing at a disappointed woman, people don't listen anymore

    6. Judgment


    Judging others is more natural than seeing our faults. It is easier to pull the speck from our neighbor's eye than pull the log from our eye. It is hard to listen well when in our hearts and minds we are judging the other. Listening well requires us to let go of preconceived judgments and offer mercy.

    Jesus' half-brother James wrote "because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). That is to say that we will be judged in the same way we judge.

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  • asian woman pointing to self conceit, people don't listen anymore

    7. Self-Righteousness


    Along with judgment, self-righteousness hampers our hearing. In Luke 18, Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector praying at the temple. One is thankful he is not like the sinners and tax collectors, the other begs God to be merciful because he is the tax collector and sinner. The Pharisee believed in his own goodness. The tax collector knew he was not good. Our self-righteousness keeps us from listening to others. Instead, it is humility and sacrifice that opens our ears to hear the hearts of our neighbors. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

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  • proud man in business outfit pointing to himself, no one listens anymore

    8. Self-Centeredness


    The Amplified Bible translates Philippians 2:3 as “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves.”

    Self-centered means to think of no one but self, making active listening difficult and being the opposite of how to love others. Self-centered people usually do all the talking and rarely hear others. This kind of self-focused, continuous need to be heard leads to foolishness. As Solomon warns, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2).

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  • man and woman looking upset not talking to each other

    9. Unforgiveness


    Unforgiveness is fertile ground for bitterness, anger, and a dull sense of hearing. Through Jesus, we receive forgiveness of sins, and we are commanded to offer the same to those who sin against us. Yet, when we are unable to extend what we have greatly received, our hearts become bitter and are soon led to anger.

    The Hebrew word for "bitter" refers to poison. The seed of poison is planted by unforgiveness. Paul reminds us, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Forgiveness uproots bitterness and anger and opens our hearts to hear both from others and Our God.

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  • Feet at two arrows point to Good and Bad, no one listens anymore

    10. Sin


    Nothing gets in the way of our listening more than sin. Sin numbs our ears to the voice of others and the voice of God. James addresses this barrier. “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:21). The term "filth" in this passage is a medical reference and means "ear wax." Unconfessed sin clogs our hearing. To regain our hearing, we must, as the passage commands, "get rid" of sin. Is there sin that you need to get rid of? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

    Today is the best time to start listening to those who need to be heard. Listening is an act of love, and we know that Jesus listened to the people He encountered. The hurting, the broken, the shamed, the blind, the leper, the lame; He listened with an open heart. Theologian and pastor, David Augsburger wrote, "Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable."

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    Tamela Turbeville lives for every woman with a difficult past to know God loves them, they are worthy and wanted. She is wife to Richard, and mother to three grown sons and two beautiful daughters-in-law. When doing what she loves most-- studying God’s Word, reading and writing--she is surrounded by her six rescue dogs in her small office in south Arkansas. She began Living One Word to write and share how God redeems the unlovable and you can read more about Tamela, her journey, and her family at www.livingoneword.com, on Facebook, and Instagram.