Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 21:28
"A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever"
This is an interesting proverb because it is counter-intuitive and because the translators have tried to help us understand its meaning and have added a few words which, unfortunately, cloud the true meaning.
Notice that the words to the truth are in italics, which means that they are really not in the original text. So if you leave them out, you have a more literal text. A false witness will perish, but the man who listens will speak forever.
The word translated false is the Hebrew word kazab which means lie. The word witness is the Hebrew word ed which means witness. In the Hebrew text the words are reversed. It reads: a witness who lies will perish. The idea is that someone who is purporting to tell you the truth but is instead deceiving and telling a lie will not protect themself with this lie like they think they are doing but will perish. Lying is usually a self-preservation instinct: If people know the truth, then it will go bad for me so I will lie. Usually it is the lying about what really happened that so infuriates the authority that they increase the punishment when they find out. Or they realize that you cannot be trusted and your hopes of promotion or pay raises perish.
This is the Hebrew word abad which means perish. What you hoped to protect with your lie will be lost when the truth comes out.
This is the Hebrew word hear, listen, obey. Solomon's idea here is that the person who spends more time listening instead of talking will be the person who has something to say when they speak.
It is interesting that Solomon juxtapositions the person who lies seeking to protect themselves with the person who listens who is preserved. Listen more than you speak. Make sure that you hear what is being asked. Make sure that you listen for the knowledge and wisdom that is in each situation and person. Make sure that your desire to express your opinion and have your views heard is held down enough to listen more and express less.
The keys to listening well are:
Focus on the other person, forgetting yourself and your reaction to what they are saying.
Set aside your emotional reaction to what the other person is saying and just keep trying to draw out their thoughts and feelings.
Eye contact: look at them.
Ask questions to draw the other person out more.
Give the little encouragements to keep talking: like grunts, words like” "I hear you""Good" "Well" "No" "You don't say" "Really."These little encouragements to talk are essential to the listening process because they tell the other person you are listening and want more.
Paraphrase what you think they said and ask them if you heard them correctly.
Summarize what you think you heard every so often to confirm that you are hearing accurately and that they are truly expressing what they want to say.
Practice listening this week. Very few things are as interesting and as quickly profitable as getting better at listening.
This is the Hebrew word dabar which means to speak, to declare, to converse. This is the point that Solomon is making. When we feel listened to, valued, and understood, we hold the words of that person in our soul for a long time. They have treated us as a person of value and so we value what they say.
This is the Hebrew word nesah which means strength, victory, and perpetuity or forever. The idea is that your words, when you do speak, will become increasingly strong when you listen effectively. Your words become so strong that they keep echoing forever. How can words go on forever? They must be embraced in the soul of people and become a part of their internal mental tapes. Because people will last forever, what gets placed in their soul will last forever. If you love them through listening to them, your words of wisdom, support, direction, and knowledge will be permanently recorded in their soul and will therefore last forever.