Listening In Silence
Listening in Silence
By Annette McDaniel
March is International Listening Awareness Month. The organization began in Minnesota in 1979 to study ways to promote better listening skills and now is world-wide. In 2008 the Missouri House of Representatives paused to recognize the ILA by passing HR94. This year the 38th Annual Convention was held March 10th in Omaha, Nebraska. Forgive my TIC (tongue in cheek) remarks but we needed listening awareness long before the 20th century. I quote my favorite author, Anonymous. “History repeats itself because no one listens the first time.” It may be true that listening is the missing half of conversation.
If we were to examine our individual listening skills, most of us would rate poorly. I’d like to blame mine on diminished hearing and that slight delay that occurs with cell phone use. That brief pause convinces me the speaker has come to the end of a sentence and I find myself talking over them as they resume their thought. Their conversation will remind us of a similar incident in our life which, of course, we want to tell. We listen, waiting for a pause and jump in. Quoting Anon again. “Conversation is a vocal competition in which the one who is catching his breath is called the listener.”
There is a difference between hearing and listening. “I hear you,” is often the response from the listener but hearing means the sound entered the auricular canal, a completely involuntary response. Listening, on the other hand, requires interpretation of the sounds heard.
Hearing is an ability. Listening is a skill.
All levity aside, Suicide Hotline volunteers report that “No one listens to me,” tops the list of grievances they hear from their clients. Would we develop better listening skills if we knew we might save a life? The fact is that listening (comprehending and interpreting) can save our lives. Throughout the Bible, God’s word commands His children to listen to Him. When the Israelites didn’t listen, it was “one more trip around the mountain” until that rebellious generation died off.
In Psalm 81 God pleads, “Oh, that My people would listen to Me. That Israel would walk in my ways!” He lists the blessings and then He promises “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely and be secure without fear of evil.” Proverbs 1:33
In our Bible Study, we are reading the Gospel of John. In the 8th chapter verse 23 one can hear the anguish in Jesus’ voice as he asks, “Why do you not understand my speech?” And then he answers His own question. “Because you are not able to listen to My Word.”
While we do not hear the audible voice of God as the Prophets did centuries ago, we can listen for the message the Spirit puts in our heart. And, just as we cannot hear while we are telling God “all about our troubles”, we can hear Him if we are silent. Quieting the mind takes concentrating on the things of God and trusting him for the answer. It is a matter of forgetting the “me” and focusing on God.
Something else to think about– The word, “listen” contains the very same letters as the word “silent”.