Did you hear. . . Are you listening?

Instead of the usual Verse of the Day, the blog entry for April 12, 2017 is another “Quote of the Day” which in this case is based on two questions: “Did you hear what I said? Are you listening to me?” These two questions also bring to mind a related verse found in James 1:22 (NKJV):

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

The same verse was the basis for a previous blog entry entitled “Hearing vs. Listening: The Art of Listening” which is revised and re-posted here:

James 1:22 also brought to mind a number of thoughts regarding the distinction between hearing and listening, as I thought of a discussion on “listening” in a public speaking class that I teach.

In discussing the communication process, we noted the difference between “hearing” and “listening.” Indeed, hearing and listening are not synonymous. According to Stephen Lucas, hearing is “the process by which sound waves are received on the ear; it is the sense by which sound is perceived.” We hear the ambient sounds that surround us without really paying any attention to the fan on the computer or the air conditioning or the ticking of the clock.

On the other hand, listening is the act of interpreting and evaluating what is being said; it is an active activity that involves receiving, deciphering, and perceiving a message with intent to respond. Hearing is passive, whereas listening should be active. Keith Davis comments, “Hearing is with the ears; listening is with the mind.”

In Chinese calligraphy, the character for “listen” consists of pictures of the ear, the eye, and the heart, illustrated in this way:

The discussion regarding hearing and listening also brought to mind that listening is an art that is perfected over time by conscious, consistent effort to improve. This is especially true in a spiritual context whereby believers must learn to listen to God. We find that God is always speaking; indeed, God is never not speaking. As we continually place our ears near to the lips of God, we develop our proficiency in listening to hear the Master’s voice, as we practice in order to perfect this art:

The Art of Listening

God has something to say to you,
God has something to say.
Listen, Listen, Pay close attention.
God has something to say.

Children’s Song

The Lord GOD has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.

The Lord GOD has opened My ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.

Isaiah 50:4-5

Listen, listen, children: hear with the inner ear.
Tune your ears to hear in the center of your heart.
I will whisper cherished secrets as you come near.
To listen intently and obey is an art,
Practiced and perfected day by day.
As you hide my Word in the center of your heart,
I perform and bring to pass each word that I say.
In my unfolding Kingdom, you too have a part,
For to walk in love is the more excellent way.
Partake of my promises and consume my Word.
As precious as life-giving water, hold it dear
And do my will, proving all things that you have heard.
Listen intently and obey: Perfect this art.
Listen, listen, children: hear with the inner ear.

Although I use this poem when I teach the section on listening in the oral communication classes that I teach, quite providentially, I wrote the poem years before I started teaching these classes. When when the poem was first read at a Bible study, someone pointed out that at the center of the piece is the word “heart” which encompasses hear, ear, and art, all of which reinforce the message, as illustrated in this way:

Without a doubt we must strive each day to become more proficient at developing the “art of listening.”

As we close, listen to the JumpStart3 contemporary Scripture Memory Song of James 1:22:

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