A few days ago, I spoke about communication. Today I want to speak about listening. Who are the best listeners? I know the indirect answer will be, “Men are the worst listeners!”
I received this from a close friend today: “I’ve always wondered if the chickens communicated using fowl language. Maybe only when they’re egg-cited.”
Due to a funeral on Saturday and a meeting I have tomorrow, I decided to do the garden route today. I was shocked and surprised that I walked a total of 8.4 km doing mowing, weeding, edging, raking, sweeping and watering. An enjoyable day out in the garden.
At about 11.30am, Jenny came outside, sat on a garden chair and asked me whether she could read a few articles to me from this week’s free Record Newspaper. I said yes. She read and read and read and I heard words here and there, not understanding the articles read at all. I was doing two others things as she read. The first was cutting the edges with a sheep shear and the second was listening to LM Radio. They were pumping out rock music. No … I was not using earphones. The cellphone was in the pocket going at full volume.
How on earth could I have listened intelligently and with understanding as Jenny read to me when I was playing rock music on the phone … the music in the one ear and Jenny’s voice in the other ear? The only excuse I have is that I had gloves on and the cellphone does not respond when fingers covered with rubber gloves presses on the face of the smart phone. I was totally in the wrong … in fact this was abuse, insensitive and downright rude. (I know it’s not Friday Confession but I needed to get it out). I hope this personal illustration (shamefully so) helps you to get the point I intend making about listening.
It’s amazing what one can remember for years and years and what one forgets almost immediately. The things that are enjoyable can be remembered for a long time. This might sound farfetched, but I can remember things form when I was about 3 ½ years old. We lived in the farm house. Many things were primitive, such as an outside bucket toilet, easily about 50 – 60 meters from the backdoor, an outside bathroom that had a thin cylinder shaped wood water heater, a huge coal stove in the kitchen, a large veranda in the front … but the most enjoyable part was climbing in the trees, or using a galvanized tub as a boat in winter. Yet often, I can’t remember things that happened 1 year back!
Back to listening … on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 as very good … how would you rate your listening skills? Ouch … yes you’re right … likely 5 or less. Let’s take the example of a husband and wife in discussion. Depending on your emotional condition, when you enter this period of communication will depend on what you hear and what you remember and for how long you remember what was said or discussed. Generally, 50% of what you hear is remembered after 5 minutes and 25% is remembered after 60 days. As time progresses, so the percentage remembered decreases. It’s almost like the school teacher of old saying, “Yes, you hear what I’m saying but are you listening to me?” There are a variety of reasons people don’t listen properly. It could be one’s emotional state, an unwillingness to settle a dispute (argument), a judgmental attitude, immaturity, disinterest, anger, fear or boredom. Look at that list … you can add to it … but listen to Proverbs:
Pr 18:13 He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.
Far too often when trying to resolve a conflict (or even just a general discussion), we tend to be thinking of an answer without paying attention to what is being said … and we get it all wrong … or we want to respond after the opening sentence of the speaker!
How do you listen to God if this is the way you listen to your spouse, parents, children, siblings, superiors at work or colleagues? When having your devotions, do you allow time to listen to what God is saying in that particular passage of the Bible? Let’s be honest and fair … sometimes! How often do you allow distractions (a person, the cellphone and other noises) to take your attention off listening to God to listen to something or someone else (like I shamefully did listening to rock music whilst Jenny was reading those articles)? Read 1 Samuel 3:1-14 for context and look at the interaction between Eli and young Samuel.
1 Sam 3:8 Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel heard someone speaking. Eli told him to tell the Lord that he was listening! Is there a lesson for us here? To stop what we’re doing … to put away distractions … and to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Maybe this could be a wonderful way to start your devotions in the morning! The Psalmist said it another way:
Ps 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
When the spiritual eye is opened by the Holy Spirit, the spiritual ear hears and listens! Yet we also read:
Pr 19:27 Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
When we cease (stop) listening to God disaster soon follows. To stray from “words of knowledge” means to stray from the Word of God, and this straying is willful and leads to rebelling against God! Surely, as the beloved in Christ we don’t want to willfully stray from Truth into sin! Rather we want to be like:
Pr 25:12 Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.
Whilst this Proverb refers to people listening to and obeying instruction from the Word delivered by a mature believer, it could easily be addressed to the believer reading the Bible carefully and giving ear (listening) to what God is saying and following that instruction. This behaviour will be seen by God as a beautiful earring or ornament set in gold to the discerning eye. Surely we want God to be pleasured through our ‘good’ behaviour?
Dear God, forgive my resistance to listen carefully. Help me to listen to You and those around me properly. Amen.