Words are a wonderfully imprecise at times. I often tell my kids to listen. I can feel like Charles Stanley some days! "Listen! Now, Listen!" But it recently occurred to me that I may need to define my terms a bit.
Listen, I recently told one of my children something he needed to start doing. He had that blank stare so I asked if he was listening and he said, "I heard you." Pressing further I asked, "What did you hear?" to which he honestly responded, "I heard words coming from your mouth." Now, listen! Frustration is not quite a strong enough word...
This led me to define "listening" for our home. I use gestures to go with this definition as I say it to them. Pointing to my ear I say, "Listening is hearing with your ears..." then pointing to my head I say, "...understanding with your brain..." and then I put my fist in my other hand and say, "...and obeying with your actions." Listening is hearing with your ears, understanding with your brain, and obeying with your actions. Listening changes what we know and do, it is not simply registering sound waves on our eardrums.
This is important for spouses as well. We need to hear, understand, and act upon what we communicate to each other. I can already hear the thoughts of some women who might read this and think, "This sounds great except for the times I just want my husband to listen and not act on it or try to fix it." That is where the brain portion of this is important. The brain is to understand and assess what action to take. Simply being supportive and absorbing the concerns of another is action. It is also a good thing to communicate to your spouse that you do not need them to "fix" anything if that is the case. Don't assume actual mind reading is taking place.
Listening is also about hearing what was actually said, not what we assume or think the other person is going to say. It is also a time to absorb instead of thinking about all the things we want to say. I have a child who begins to act before I am finished speaking because she assumes she knows what I am about to say. Ninety-eight percent of the time she assumes wrong!
Unfortunately, most of us are poor listeners. We hear words coming from other people's mouths but fail to use our brains to listen and therefore our actions cause more problems than help. Many of us treat God's words the same way. We do not hear with our ears, understand with our brains, or obey with our actions. We often assume what God is going to say instead of what He has actually said. Listening is a key ingredient in any relationship and a relationship with God is no exception. In fact, He's the one who designed relationships to be this way.
It is our pride that causes us to close our ears, brains, and actions off to the loving choices God calls us to in all our relationships.