Learning to Listen


The other day, one of my four-year old students decided to step in and help mediate a conflict in which one kid accused another of name-calling. “That’s not what happened!” she said. “They just misunderheard each other.” Her vocabulary may not have been accurate, but I realize how right she is.

How many misunderstandings are really a result of “misunderhearing”? We half-listen, not hearing what the other person is trying to say because we’re already formulating what we want to say in response. Or we misinterpret what was said altogether, sifting their words through our own preconceived notions.

My old landlord always used to say, “the root of all conflict is uncommunicated and unmet expectations.” How much relational conflict would be avoided if we took to heart the Bible verse exhorting us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry?” If we just slowed down enough to hear and to respond appropriately, what needless pain would we avoid?

This applies within our human relationships, and also in our relationship with God. How many times do we misunderhear his word? We take a verse out of context, twist it as we desire then wonder why it’s not working like some magic spell over our lives. Bitterness sets in as we mistakenly believe God didn’t make good on his promise, when all along we weren’t rightly hearing what he had to say.

And how extreme has our world’s caricaturized vision of God become as it listens to lies and half-truths perpetuated by media propaganda and hypocritical churchgoers, never bothering to search his word for the truth of who he is. If only we would listen. If only we would hear. How much more would we know God for who he truly is, and not what our idolatrous hands have made him to be?

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-10)

God, slow us down. Help us to listen to your still small voice, to hear what you are saying above the clamor of this world. Show yourself for who you truly are, not for what we’ve tried to make you to be. And as we rightly hear you, bring healing to our relationships with you and with others, as only you can. In Jesus’ name.

Photo Credit: Sound Waves Free Stock Photo – Public Domain Pictures