One of the most challenging things we have to balance in our lives is deciding who we should listen to. If we have learned anything about this age of imbalanced news and social media, it is that we have to practice judgment and consider the source before ever expecting to form an accurate opinion. Our problem is not merely limited to broad conversations of politics and global interests but is also applicable to everyday discussions with the people around us. So what do we do? Who can we trust? Whose voices and opinions should we adhere to? Unfortunately, the truth is, not everyone around us is looking out for our best interest. Sadly, so many people are actively attempting to force THEIR bias, THEIR opinion, and THEIR motives on others.
Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live, understood this problem in his book, Ecclesiastes. As an older and wiser king, he had witnessed the harsh reality that you can’t listen to just anybody. “And do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others. All this I have proved by wisdom,” Ecclesiastes 7:21-23a. When we take everything people say to heart, we will ultimately be SHATTERED by their words. Even though Christians ought to have tamed the tongue (James 3), and even though the validity of our religion depends on it (James 1:26), the reality is… we all make mistakes, and we all come up short.
That is exactly what Solomon follows this verse with reminding us. If we have heard someone was speaking ill of us… we need to realize that we have been just as guilty of disparaging others. Therefore, we should not be shocked that someone would dare say something negative about us when we have been guilty of the exact same thing. Wow, Solomon! What a relief. I do not need to listen to anybody who is critical of me. I don’t need to take anything to heart. Well, that is awesome; I can go about my life never listening to anyone I disagree with. Not so fast!
Solomon never said, “Do not take to heart ANYTHING people say,” he said, “Do not take to heart EVERYTHING people say.” The difference is key if we are ever going to understand who we should be listening to. Solomon reminds us of the importance of not listening to everything people say, but he also reminds us to listen to the RIGHT voices. “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools,” Ecclesiastes 7:5. If we go through our lives only searching for the voices we agree with and the voices who never criticize us… we are simply looking for the song of fools. We should seek the rebuke of those who care enough about us to try to help instead of only searching out those who sing our praises. Notice Solomon brought even more validity to this by saying, “All this I have proved by wisdom.”
At the end of the day, all of us are likely on one side of the coin or the other. Half of the people reading this will be on the side of listening to EVERYTHING people say about them. These are the people who struggle with self-worth because they have listened to the voices who told them they have none. These are also the people who blindly believe the voices that have the sole purpose of besmirching them. The other half of the people reading this are on the side of not listening to ANYTHING people say about them. These are the people who never grow and never improve because they refuse to listen to the voices who are genuinely trying to help. Which side of the coin is better? The truth is, whether we listen to EVERYTHING people say or if we refuse to listen to ANYTHING people say… either way, we have missed Solomon’s point entirely.
Finding balance is the key. Balance is the only thing that will keep us afloat in this world that seeks to drown us. We have to find the voices who have proven themselves as those who care about our best interest and listen to them. We also have to identify the voices who are only trying to tear us down and decide not to take everything they say to heart. When we strike this balance, we will be ready to grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism