Husbands are often accused of selective hearing. As in, only hearing those things that they want to hear. “Dinner’s ready,” is heard while “can you take out the trash?” falls on deaf ears. I’ve fallen victim to it myself. The truth is that some things get through our “attention” filter easier than others. But to be honest that excuse can also be a lie. It’s not just a husband or a kid thing, everyone falls victim to selective hearing.
To combat this problem, I’m trying to develop listening habits. When Betty talks, even if it seems like a mundane report of some kind, I try to pause whatever I’m doing and give her my attention. By doing things like putting down the smartphone, pausing the TV show or game, closing the laptop, and shifting into a listening mode I make it easier for her to get through my attention filter.
The basic truth is that listening requires attention. Just because the sounds waves hit our ears does not mean that we’re engaged with those words. Unless we intentionally shift our attention only those things which seem important to us will break through. Ever notice that we call this “paying attention?” There is a transaction taking place. Putting down what is occupying my mind gives honor and value to the one speaking.
We can take this a bit farther and recognize the need to also turn off our prejudices, our assumptions, our value assignments, our defenses, and our agendas to hear what someone is saying. To listen for understanding instead of listening to ready a response. It’s not easy. In some cases, it may even feel a bit traitorous since our pre-judgment or past history has already determined that someone is not worthy of our honor or attention. We’re all guilty of this.
We’re even guilty of selective hearing when it comes to God. We hear what we want to hear but ignore the hard bits. Or we put God in a box and only half listen on certain days, times, and places. We make assumptions about what we want Him to say without letting Him speak through His Word to us. We read into His Word what we want to hear instead of hearing what the Word is saying. I think that God deserves our attention, our listening ears, as well.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1–2a, NLT)
Now, if I could just do something about my selective memory.