How to hear the last 10%

May 10th, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Communication, Relationships

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry . . . .and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  James 1:19 & 21b 

We can talk a lot about the responsibilities of those who initiate sharing the last 10%,  but from a Biblical perspective there seems to be an even greater burden of responsibility upon those who are on the receiving end of the last 10% as hearers.  There are many verses in the both the Old and New Testaments that give instructive encouragement as to how to receive constructive criticism and corrective input. 

The one commonality in all of them, as expressed in James 1:21, is an assumption that the hearer have a heart of humility.  And herein lies the key to accurately hearing the last 10%.  It has more to do with seeking to hear with humility what God is saying than focusing on what the person is saying and/or how they are sharing it.

Humble listening happens on two levels.  We ask for a grace to humbly hear what people are saying to us audibly.  But more importantly, at the same time, we are sensitive to hear what Jesus might be saying to us inaudibly by His Holy Spirit. 

“What is Holy Spirit saying to me through this?”  This is the most important question we must ask when hearing someone share the last 10%.  When this happens we need to take James’ advice to push the pause button on any defensive reply and instead listen carefully to God might be saying.

Jesus best summed it up when He said “Pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given.” (Luke 8:18) 

One of the best illustrations of this truth is the Genesis 21 account of Abraham’s reaction to his wife Sarah when she demanded that he “get rid of that slave woman (Hagar) and her son (Ishmael).” (vs. 10)  Abraham had thrown a feast for Isaac celebrating his weaning but the party was ruined when Ishmael starting mocking Isaac. 

When Sarah saw it she went ballistic and made a bee line for Abraham.  Forget about the last 10%, Sarah wasn’t measuring.  She unloaded the full 100% of her frustration on her husband. 

As you can imagine Abraham’s initial reaction was a negative one.  We are told “The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son (Ishmael).  The word “distressed” in the Hebrew literally mean to quiver or tremble.  The picture here is of Abraham virtually trembling like a volcano with a mixture of grief and displeasure in reaction to Sarah’s confrontational demand.

But on the other level, the realm of the Spirit, God was also speaking.  And thankfully Abraham had the spiritual ears to hear Him say, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” (vs. 12)  Being the humble man that Abraham was, that settled it for him.  Early the next morning he provisioned Hagar and Ishmael and sent them on their way.  

So, the next time someone comes to you with their last 10%, push the pause button on your reaction and ask Jesus “What are you saying to me through this?”  It’s a fact that in every criticism there is often some grain of truth.  Those who are spiritually attune will seek to discover what it is.  Proverbs 13:18 says that “If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept correction, you will be honored.”

Tomorrow I want to continue the discussion with what I believe to be the biggest obstacle we have to overcome in hearing the last 10%.

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One Response to “How to hear the last 10%”

  1. I anxiously await your further discussion of this subject matter, and I do believe that obstacles to hearing well are an important issue in the believer’s life. How someone hears says important things about the condition of his or her heart. How well we hear is almost a thermometer of our spiritual walk.

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