I wrote the following words about five years ago, and they still hold true: listening is doing!
The difference is that I think I’m in a place now to offer a few tips on how to make the transition from a passive hearing to an active listening.
But first, let’s look at my original thoughts:
My wife is always telling me that I don’t listen to her, which never made sense to me because I heard (nearly) every word she said. How could I not be listening? The thing is–and this is what I just realized today–listening is doing.
When my wife talks about how we need to better plan for our weekends, weeknights, vacations, life in general, I hear what she says. I even THINK about it. (What a great guy I am!) But where I fall short, where a lot of us fall short, is that I don’t do anything with what I heard. I think about my wife’s concerns about my speeding, my eating habits, my obsession with loud music, and I usually consider her concerns carefully in my mind, but rarely do I take it any further than that. That’s where I’ve been wrong for the past eight years.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. There have to be others. Sadly, my wife isn’t alone. There have to be countless people who’s wisdom goes unheeded. Jesus, immediately comes to mind.
Jesus described the people who listened to Him without doing anything in response as “foolish” people who build their houses (lives) on foundations of sand. When disaster comes, all they can do is wish they had listened. Today, I faced disaster for not connecting listening to my wife with doing what she suggests.
I was headed to work and was on track to be on time…or I could be early if I drove a little bit faster than the state of Illinois is comfortable with. Long story short, my driver’s license is being help hostage at the Madison County Courthouse until I pay the legal ransom. Why did this happen? I didn’t fully listen to my wife’s advice by actually putting it into practice. The worst part? She had just warned me about this on Monday! Needless to say, I am fool.
And you might be a fool, too. The trouble is, you might not see it. You think that you’re doing fine, listening to the Jesus through the pastor’s sermons, through reading the Bible, through whatever else, but you’re not completing the transaction: you’re not doing.
Listening is doing. When you’re not doing, you’re not really listening. Not listening will hurt your relationships with your family, your friends, and your Savior. Open your ears, open your heart, and then get to it!
Listening is doing!
So, with my wife and with my Savior, I’m learning to do a few things to help me move from passively listening, which results in nothing but wasted time and broken promises, and active listening, which results in deeper communication, greater intimacy, and strengthened trust. That said, I want to disclaim any and all assumption that I’m a great active listener or even a fair interpersonal communicator. I’m a struggling communicator. However, I’ve been doing some study on relationships, and I’m trying to learn.
The first thing is what happens before the actual communicating: setting the environment. With my wife, that usually means that I’m facing her with my phone greater than an arm’s length away. With Jesus, I shut off all other sounds, unless it’s worship or prayerful music that can help me focus. Secondly, with my wife, I try to ask questions. This is helpful because it shows her that I’m interest, but it also helps me to focus my listening. See, I’m a bit of an unfocused person, especially when it comes to listening. Compounding this is the never-ceasing mental cacophony I deal with all day long. Thus, in asking questions, I can mentally narrow my listening field to a particular topic, increasing the likelihood that I’ll fully comprehend my wife’s answer. Now, the only issue with this is that I am now learning to leap from one narrowed field to another, following my wife’s thoughts wherever she’d like to go. With God, it’s a bit harder, but I’ve been, for years, trying to perfect the art of “practicing God’s presence,” being in constant conversation with God. I’m so far from being even a little good at it, but it’s definitely a goal worth working toward.
So, that’s that for now. I’ve got a lot to learn about being a good listening and a good doer, but I believe I’m on the right track. I’m truly building my house upon the Rock, applying Jesus’ message to my life and marriage.
I’m not perfect, but at least I can say that I’m no fool.
[Featured image via Eugene Burnard]