Have you noticed that it is easy to hear the words that another person says but miss the point they are making altogether? Maybe that was the reason Jesus so often said to those he spoke to that if anyone had ears to hear, let him hear. We all have ears. But they aren’t always ready to hear. Often it seems as though our ears are there to keep us from hearing or to confuse what we hear.
In meeting with different couples who are having different kinds of problems in their marriage and relationships it is amazing how often they talk right past one another. I’ve often asked them if they are hearing what the other person is saying. Usually the answer is that they do hear one another. But the truth is they hear what they think the other person is going to say and formulate their answer based on those thoughts. If anything it is even worse with parents and children. Parents often talk and talk but the child isn’t tuned it at all to what is being said so the words just pass right by them into the atmosphere. Parents often become so intent on telling their children things that they feel are deeply important that when the children talk and try to tell the parents where they are coming from and why they think and act the way they do, the parent misses the message entirely.
Have you had the experience of one of your children saying that they told you something several days ago and you can’t remember the conversation at all? Have they reminded you of where you were and what was going on when they told you and you remember the circumstances but have no memory of them telling you anything that was of any significance.
Not long ago I witnessed a situation that illustrates this point. One man apologized freely to another man for some things he had said and done toward the man in days past. The other man never acknowledged the man’s apology but went right on talking about what the other one had done that was wrong. Weeks later I was with the man who had been apologized to and he began talking about the faults of the other man. He made no mention of the man’s apology at all. I asked him if he remembered the apology the other man gave to him. He gave me a sharp look and declared he has never apologized to him. “That’s not the kind of thing a man forgets.”
When parents and children so firmly declare that the other has never expressed any sorrow or regret for what they have done wrong, it is often the same kind of thing. It has been expressed many times but has not be heard a single time. When Jesus encountered this kind of thing he said, “This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly heard with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:13-15)
In the last few years I’ve gone through a great deal of hearing loss and have a real problem understanding what people say, especially in a crowd. But I also know that many times my problem in hearing and understanding isn’t about the hearing loss but in a listening loss. My wife will often say things that I will respond with “what?” and she will either repeat it or say something to the effect if you had been listening the first time you wouldn’t have needed to say “what”.
The next time you are having a problem with another person whether it is at work or at church or even more if it is at home with your mate or your children, step back and ask yourself if you were really listening or was your mind and attention somewhere else completely. Too often when we are at work our mind is at home and when we are at home our mind is back at the office. We could do ourselves and our family a great favor by really being at home when we are there. I think this is at least part of the point being made by Peter in I Peter 3:7 when he told the husband “dwell with their wives according to understanding giving honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel and as being heirs together of the grace of life.” He was telling the man to live with his wife. Be at home with her and understand her as your partner in the good things of life.
Many years ago when I coached a little boys baseball team it was common to try to tell them something and them be involved in a multitude of different things including talking to each other. I would shout, “listen up” to them to get their attention. If I didn’t do that I could talk on for a whole day and never have them hear a thing that was said.
Are you listening in your home? Your telling will bounce right back off the walls if you aren’t doing any listening. When your children grow up and start down their own road you may be deeply disappointed in the direction they are going. But all too often it is the case that they have tried as hard as they could to tell you where they were going in life but couldn’t ever get your attention. You were so attuned to what you wanted and thought you had forcefully put into their minds that you completely missed what they had said.
If you have ears to hear, then hear what is being said. Solomon said to answer a person before we hear what he has to say is to be a fool. That includes what is said by our child or our mate for life.