Listen before you answer. – Proverbs 18:13 GNT
Modern technology is wonderful. I can now keep in touch with my kids, who live in various states, and my brother in Alabama on a daily basis. I can send and receive pictures, memes, messages. I can encourage, remind, inform.
What I can’t do is deal with a frustrating software function on my phone that changes my words while I’m typing. It’s called “autocorrect.”
While its purpose is to correct common spelling and typing errors and save time, it doesn’t always save time and it doesn’t always correct correctly. Hence I’ve dubbed it “autoINcorrect” because a good deal of the time it changes the word to one I didn’t intend.
I admit, my fat fingers fly on the tiny keyboard and often hit the wrong key, but I’m perfectly capable of noticing and correcting my own mistakes. After all, I’m a writer, editor, and former English teacher. I know my grammar – so well one of my editing clients calls me a “Grammar Nazi.”
So I’m more than irked when Otto Korreck (another name I dubbed the irritating function) changes my words and hence the meaning. How dare it! I know what I intend to say. Otto doesn’t. Otto only thinks he knows what I intend to say.
One day while retyping and resending a message – and grumbling about the time wasted correcting Otto’s mistake – it hit me: I can be like Otto.
I, too, can misinterpret what another person is saying because I assume what the other person means. I don’t listen. I’ve tuned them out because my mind is reviewing the story I want to tell (related to what the other person is saying, of course) when he pauses long enough for me to jump in with my two cents.
I act like I’m listening. I nod, murmur appropriate phrases to show my (fake) sympathy or understanding. But my mind is all but truly listening.
Listening is different than hearing.
Hearing happens. We hear sounds all the time – the dishwasher running, a neighborhood dog barking (or cow mooing), traffic on the road, wind chimes. Some we block out; some we stop and listen to.
Listening is a conscious act that you choose to do. It requires concentration and time to allow your mind to process the sounds.
My mother was good at hearing but not truly listening. It irked me to no end because I just needed someone to listen (and commiserate). I didn’t need the preaching and teaching session she launched into when I was done. I wondered if she really heard and understood what I was saying. She was too busy preparing her message to really listen to me.
Do I do the same? Do I only hear other people and not truly listen to them?
Listening involves the heart. Listening involves shutting off my mind to the stories and things I want to say. Listening means putting the other person’s needs first. After all, it isn’t about me.
The person probably doesn’t need me trying to fix her problem. She just wants to vent. She just needs someone to listen with compassion and sympathy, someone to squeeze her hand or give her a hug.
In his epistle, James tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).
The Amplified version expands the meaning and tells us to be careful, thoughtful listeners, and when we do speak, to carefully choose our words so they show we’re reflecting on what was said (and thus listening).
Don’t be another Otto Korreck. Listen with your heart.
Remind me, Lord, that I have two ears and one mouth. Help me to use them to minister to others. Amen.
Read and meditate on Philippians 2:3–4.
© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.