I have a confession to make to my male readership – a confession which some may feel constitutes grounds for turning in my Man Card.
I don’t control the TV remote control in our home.
There, I said it. Who controls the TV remote in our home is no big deal to me because Lynne is always gracious to ask what I’d like to watch. Overall this arrangement works for us – except when it comes to volume. I’m convinced that every nerve ending in Lynne’s body is in either one or the other of her ears. Her hearing is beyond exceptional, which means acceptable volume for her leaves me wanting more.
Recently our difference in volume preference led her to suggest that I needed to have my hearing checked. To appease her, I made an appointment. I believe Lynne’s foregone conclusion was that I would walk out of that clinic with a receipt in hand for at least one hearing aid. Surprisingly, only the first part of the two-part hearing test was needed to verify that my hearing is still normal. In our post-hearing test conversation, I reiterated to her what I have jokingly said on previous occasions, “I’m not hard of hearing. I’m hard of listening.” Her response? “Maybe the audiologist can recommend a good marriage counselor.”
“I’m not hard of hearing. I’m hard of listening”- a gentle reminder that “ears” and “hears” are not synonymous. Jesus understood that reality and voiced it like this, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”(Matthew 11:15) Jesus was not encouraging hearing. Hearing was assumed. Jesus was encouraging thoughtful listening.
In a culture like ours which is filled with noise, listening is a huge gift we can give to others. It’s a gift we can give our family members and our friends. It is a gift we can give to our clients. Ultimately it is a gift we give ourselves because it promotes intimacy, builds trust, and earns us the right to be heard when we speak.
What makes for a good listener?
One aspect of focus is physical. To be a good listener, our eyes must team up with our ears. When conversing in person, keeping our eyes and ears focused on the speaker is essential if we are to block out the visual and audible clutter around us. A second aspect of focus is mental – what we intend to do once the speaker has finished. Is our goal to understand the speaker or to respond to the speaker? Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, speaks a good word when he says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Good listeners focus first on understanding, then on responding.
To be a good listener we must honor and give deference to the personhood of the speaker. Having been created in the image of God, each person has value. Being heard affirms that value. Second we must honor and give deference to their right to an opinion. Whether we agree with their opinion is an entirely different matter, but they have a right to an opinion.
In respect to listening, submission means that at a given moment in time we “yield the floor” to someone else. To be a good listener, we must yield to the speaker our right to speak, to be heard, and even to be understood for that moment in time.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Now that’s sound advice.
About the Author
Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.