There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing. ~ G.K. Chesterton
Listening is hard. Hearing is even harder.
Years ago, I was the Counseling Supervisor at very busy Crisis Intervention Center in a mid-sized city. We had a 24 hour crisis line along with a steady stream of walk-in clients.
I was the only one in the center late one Saturday afternoon when a 36-year-old client I’d met with often, walked in, clearly agitated. He picked up a bottle of glue off a desk, squirted it in his Coke, shook it and sprayed it all over the walls.
As I began to try to gently talk to him, he grabbed me and held a knife to my throat for the next 45 minutes. He was strong and I was at a loss. Regardless of what I said, he heard something entirely different. Stan was a paranoid schizophrenic who rarely took his meds and often heard voices. On this particular Saturday he thought he’d heard my voice making fun of him.
Stan couldn’t hear what I was really saying. He only heard what he was afraid people said about him. His deteriorating mental health made hearing impossible.
Stan’s focus was entirely on himself. And in that way, he and I aren’t so different. A memory or my opinion or reaction to a remark can shift my focus in a conversation off of the person I’m with and back onto me. When I’m listening to you but thinking about me, I don’t hear what you’re saying.
We all have mental chatter to tune out. We may listen to voices from our childhood or school or church. They may even be tapes we’ve made ourselves – voices that distort the sound-waves so that we add our own spin to another’s words. There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.
It’s the same with God. Sometimes I talk and talk and then I’m done..
I skip over the listening all together. When I’m praying and I do all the talking, I become hard of hearing.
With God, and with others, playing my own tapes too loudly can lead to hearing loss.