When my girlfriend (Suz) reminds me to do something, she follows up with two questions. She asks, “Did you hear me?” then she will ask, “But did you listen?” At first, I thought this was just a clever ploy to get me to remember what she told me. But when I started thinking about this, it makes sense. There is a distinct difference between hearing what someone has to say and internalizing their words. Suz wants me to internalize what she says, not just hear it.
Americans today are a hearing people, not a listening people. When someone asks you, “How you are doing?” you say, “Good.” because you know that they don’t actually want to listen to you. When we tweet, we hope that people listen; but I can’t remember a single tweet from the last time I scrolled through twitter. When a situation gets awkward, it is easier to pull out your phone rather than reaching out to speak or to listen to someone. It is easier to hear someone’s perspective than to try and listen to take on their perspective. Hearing is easy, yet listening is an overlooked responsibility and blessing.
Hearing instead of listening creates 3 negative impacts in a culture:
I. Forgetful Culture
School has drilled into my head to remember something till you don’t need it anymore. We retain information for the time needed then forget it. We remember the answers until the test. We remember the date for the second we need it. Then when we need to write it down again, we can’t remember it. This is extremely evident on Sunday mornings.
“They found that immediately after a 10-minute presentation, listeners only remembered 50% of what was said. By the next day, that had dropped to 25%, and a week later it was 10%.” – Jack Malcolm (How Much of Your Presentation Will They Remember?)
Why is this a problem? When we create a culture of forgetfulness, then we forget why we must fight to remember. In the Bible, Israel had to be constantly reminded to put their trust in God by their leaders. Israel didn’t have the Sprinkle of Jesus app to help them remember that God’s grace is enough for them today.
Have you ever read a chapter of a book, close it, and forget everything you just read? This is something I had to fight for the longest time. My mind was so used to forgetting, that I could not retain bigger amounts of info for longer than a few seconds. It is a destructive habit that needs to be broken.
Jesus wants you to remember His truth, His grace, and His love. These are not meant to be read and forgotten but internalized deep within our soul. The Word of God is ours to remember, memorize, and meditate on.
Challenge: LISTEN to a sermon and retain what the pastor said. Do not just hear it but listen to what he is saying. Even if the message didn’t impact you that day, you may need it a week later or a co-worker may need it. Do not underestimate the reach of God’s Word.
II. Lonely Culture
You can tell the difference between someone who is intently listening to you and the person who shakes their head every 10 seconds in an effort to keep you pleased. It is one of the most lonely feelings in the world. You can be in a room of a thousand people and still be alone. A lonely culture is built on a lack of listening. You know you are not alone when someone takes the time to sincerely ask about life.
The best way to surround yourself with people who earnestly listen is to be a listener yourself. As Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Listening is a talent lost in our culture. We must reclaim listening in order to regain our community.
CHURCH: Please listen. When people come to seek restoration, they don’t want a quick fix nor do we have one. Let your love overflow by simply listening. Give your ear to people.
Challenge: Make time to pick up your phone, call or text a stranger to ask how their day is going, then LISTEN. Watch a relationship bloom from nothing.
III. Ignorant Culture
The dangers of an ignorant culture are endless. When there is no listening, there is no understanding.
When you ask someone how their day is going and they say, “Just another day”. That could mean that nothing exciting has happened today or that their depression is still there. In an effort to change an ignorant culture, we must ask questions. Through asking questions, we uncover conversation that reveals who we are. People are willing to talk, but are we willing to ask questions?
Challenge: Put yourself in the shoes of your husband/wife (or parents) and see from their perspective. Ask them about the decisions they make. Not in a backlash, but in a longing to understand what they care about and who they are.
Listening is a lost art that must be recovered for our culture to see a rebound in happiness, relationships, and educational growth. When we read about listening in the Bible, the premise is mainly about listening to God, and then following with obedience. There is no other type of listening. When we surrender our ears to God, our reflex should be to obey.
Maybe you have been hearing God, but in an act of comfort, you forgot to listen. My prayer is that you listen intently to what God has for you through His word and through His people. Dedicate yourself to listening, to caring. Change the course of culture and be the listener you need.
For Your Name is my name and my name for Your Glory,
Forever and Ever, Amen.