We have to choose to hear to learn and grow. We have to listen when we dare to question. We can only hear the truth when we choose to listen to the answers.
We hosted a homeschool gathering, which meant we had twenty-two children ranging from ages four to fifteen, plus half a dozen moms, all crammed into our 1300 sq ft.
The kids spent most of the time outside together playing games – usually of their own creation.
My son came running in one day with blood flowing down his face. He wasn’t upset, so I knew he wasn’t hurt too bad despite the blood. I was beginning to think the only reason he’d come inside was to get cleaned up so he wouldn’t freak out the other kids any more than he already had.
“What happened?” I asked. It seemed like a reasonable question for a mother to ask.
“Sally hit me with a rock,” he replied simply.
Between homeschooling three boys, teaching swim lessons, coaching the swim team, and having grown up with boys around me, I knew there was more than his simple reply. I knew to dig deeper.
I looked at Sally’s mom and she shrugged at me. Sally was summoned to fill in the blanks. When she arrived, her mom took over the interrogations. “Sally, why did you hit him with a rock?” It seemed like a reasonable question for a mother to ask.
“Well,” Sally looked around at the other kids. She sighed. “He suggested we play dodge rock.”
I had to interrupt for a point of clarification. “I’m sorry, did you say dodge rock?”
She nodded in response.
“And it was his idea?” I dug for more clarification.
Sally nodded again.
Her mother and I once again exchanged looks, only this time it was taking everything we could muster not to laugh uncontrollably.
I managed to gain my composure and I turned to my son. “Okay, if you’re going to invent a game called Dodge Rock then please make sure to dodge the rocks.”
The other mothers were trying not to laugh. I had no doubt the containment would break before too long, like just long enough for the kids to get out of hearing range.
“Y’all go back out and play,” Sally’s mom ordered the kids. “And no more dodge anything. Play Hide and Go Seek or Freeze Tag.”
We took a moment to see the situation from as many perspectives as we could. Had we reacted out of the limited information about the blood, things could have gone bad quickly. Instead, we slowed down, looked at things differently, and found answers we might have missed.
You can look at a situation and make up your mind, but you are deciding without all the facts.
You can look at a moment or a moment within a moment and determine you know it all without having even an indication of how much it all includes.
You can ask for a response without waiting for a response or with ears that don’t choose to hear and you are left without a response even if one is given.
How to Choose to Hear
- Choose to hear deeper than the words shared.
- Choose to hear without limitations from your expectations.
- Choose to hear without distractions.
- Choose to hear even when it challenges your thoughts (and maybe especially then).
Until we choose to hear, we will not be positioned to encounter the Truth.
When you choose to hear the words, you move from passive listening to actively engaging (and maybe even a little collaboration). You take in the words until the words are complete. Only then do you mull them over to determine a response if one is needed.
Actively listening is easiest when you are face to face in real life. You can show your intentionally listening. When you’re on the phone, the same moment of hearing and processing you go through can appear as a dropped call because all the other person experiences is silence. Online it can also look like frozen feed.
So Technology can make it more challenging, but it’s still necessary. We have to be open to the words others are sharing if we are going to be positioned to engage the heart. The biggest challenge to active listening online is when you get excited. You can take over the point of view of others by talking over them or talking through them.
My husband and I have been married for decades at this point, and it has only been in recent weeks that he explained how finishing his sentences distracts him from his point. I always thought I was being cute. Instead, he pointed out, “I just need to say what I need to say or I lose my way.”
His comment made me conscious of how often I cut the word flow of others. I get excited about the topic and jump, but that hinders them. I’m now making a conscious attempt to listen more aggressively.
Hearing with expectations can be just as dangerous. You hear what you expect instead of what is actually shared. A mind that’s not fully focused will fill in the blanks and those blanks aren’t necessarily filled with what was originally shared.
I went to sit with my Father In Law when he was in the hospital. He had suffered a heart attack and we were waiting for the tests. The problem was his kidneys were making it impossible for them to run the test.
The nurse came in to explain. “Once we get your kidneys healthier then we’ll run the test. We know you’ve had a heart attack, we just don’t know how bad.”
My Father In Law didn’t say anything until the nurse left. “Well, I wonder when they’ll let me out of here since they don’t think I had a heart attack.”
I stared in disbelief. How had he been able to hear what was said and come away with what he had just repeated to me? I finally realized he heard with the expectations of being okay.
When we hear with expectations, we can change the message.
Choose to hear without expectations so that you can hear the Truth.
I learned early on that if I wanted my sons to hear me I had to turn off devices and make them look at me. I learned this the hard way when I came in to talk to my son.
When I finished saying what I needed to say, my husband laughed. “He didn’t hear a word you said.”
I knew he was wrong. My son had to have heard because he responded non-verbally. I decided to prove my husband wrong. “Son, what did I just tell you?”
My asking was a bit smugger than I intended, but only a little bit.
When my son responded, it was words that had nothing to do with what I said. They weren’t even related to the words I had used.
My smug moment turned especially embarrassing with his response.
My husband only laughed at me for a few days. I learned that without invested engagement in listening, the mind would hear what it chose to hear.
Choose to hear without distractions.
You get stronger with your hearing when you are open to what can be heard. Being open to hearing something that challenges your beliefs can not only be tough but scary. What happens if what is shared is truer than what you can currently believe?
Add in the importance of hearing completely without formulating a response until after the words are all shared and you may discover that what you heard is downright convincing.
It shouldn’t be shocking. The more we grow in Wisdom and Understanding, the less we’re challenged by the ideas of others. We are open to their words because we are secure in our Wisdom and Understanding.
- I have to know what I believe and know it FIRST HAND
- I have to have a foundation for why I believe
- I have to be okay with others believing different
When these elements are in place then we can become willing to see the issue from a new perspective. Even if these points are locked in, I still need to be listening with a heart eager to learn and grow.
When we hear deeper.
When we hear without limitations.
When we hear without distractions.
When we hear with an open heart.
The more we choose to hear then the more open we are to encountering the Truth.