The Art of Listening

HearListenSquareI used these earplugs when working with power equipment while building our new home at Refuge Ranch in Mexico (home to the mission of our daughter and son-in law). I DO NOT wear them when my wife Diann is trying to tell me something! However, sometimes, my wife Diann would argue, I might as well have the earplugs in my ears; I’m not listening anyway! She finds it amazing that I can hear her but that I’m not listening to her.

The fact is that hearing and listening are two different auditory experiences. Hearing mainly uses the ears while listening primarily uses the mind and heart. We don’t have to decide to hear sounds, but listening to what’s being said is a choice.

Sometimes in a conversation with someone we’re not really listening to the other person, we’re just waiting for our turn to speak. Even when we do listen it’s important to remember that there’s more to it than just hearing the words the other person speaks. We’ve heard of reading between the lines; we also need to listen between the words, listening to how the person says the words: the tone and inflection of the voice as well as the facial expressions, gestures, and body language. This is why e-mailing and texting are poor ways to communicate personal, sensitive, important, and emotional issues; e-mails and texts don’t allow us to listen between the words.

Then too, listening includes listening for the words left unsaid as well as those said. Listen for the silent words loudly spoken!

In the song “The Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics there’s a line that challenges us: “You can listen as well as you hear.” If we can hear we can listen, but we have to choose to do so!

God calls each of us to bring His love into the lives of those we know. One of the best ways to do so is to listen well. A good conversationalist isn’t so much a person who is quick to talk but someone who is quick to listen. The Lord has given us two ears and one mouth, He expects us to use them in that proportion!

To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.(Proverbs 18:13)

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