Did you ever stop to consider the "skill" of listening? If we are to really understand what listening is and is not, we must probably understand what listening "is not" first. This will help us to "carve out" what listening really is. The idea of listening is not just "hearing" words said. It is not being intermittently engaged in conversation. It is not double-tasking - doing one thing while allegedly listening. I have tried all these things - "hearing", engaging half-heartedly, and double-tasking. What happens is that my attention is not directed as it should be, my heart isn't into it, and I just plain miss stuff! We can either develop a "habit" of being good listeners, or the one of not listening as we should. The latter is a bad habit! There is probably no habit quite so difficult to break - no skill so difficult to learn.
I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong. (Hebrews 5:11-14 MSG)
The most telling part of not being in the habit of listening as we should is that we don't do as we hear. In hearing, we just merely allow the words to bounce around in our brains for a while and then somehow they escape. It is like we "leak"! We don't hold onto what we hear - allowing it to affect our thought, reasoning, intellect, etc. When we allow stuff to "leak out", we are constantly in the place of having to "relearn" the information over-and-over again. I remember having my first locker at school. I had literal bad dreams for a couple of weeks before school ever began because I was so afraid I'd forget the combination to the lock on my gym locker! Once I received my locker assignment, I practiced and re-practiced opening that lock, rehearsing those series of numbers until I thought I'd have it down pat. Don't ya know...I forgot the lock combination on one of my first days at school and nearly had a panic attack! For the life of me I could not put those numbers together and there I stood - having just minutes to change out for physical education and no idea how to access my shorts and T-Shirt from the gym locker! I had "leaked"!
To make matters worse, I would have to admit to my gym teacher that I had forgotten the precious combination. To make matters worse, the gym teacher had given us this big lecture about us being responsible to remember the combination and she wasn't our mothers. So when I forgot that combination, do you think I wanted to go to her and admit my failing? Not a chance. I stood there in panic, holding back tears, retrying every series of numbers that seemed feasible in my mind. As if to make matters worse, more and more of the girls in my class began to leave the locker room, making it obvious that I was not going to make the class bell! I was mortified because they would ALL soon know how silly I had been to forget that combination. You and I all have the same tendencies to hold onto stuff we might have done well to not allow to clutter up our brain space and then we allow stuff to slip away which we should have been guarding with our lives! In respect to our spiritual lives, whenever we allow the teachings of God to be merely heard and not embraced, we are allowing this "leakage" of what is heard. When we do, we have but one recourse - learn it all over again!
Yes, I did eventually have to admit to my teacher my failure to remember the combination she had given to me just a few days before. Yes, I did remember it the rest of the year and can even recite it now at age 56! It wasn't even a hard one! 32-15-30 - go figure! But...in that moment of time, it was gone! Why? I only half-heartedly set my attention toward learning what I'd heard. We all find ourselves in those positions at times, but we should not allow this to become the dominant way we treat what it is we hear. As a matter of fact, some of us are "relearning" lessons taught long ago simply because we have this bad habit of not listening. Relearning the basics is not the original plan - it is the contingency! The plan was for us to hear, embrace, and obey. The lack of attention we paid toward the teaching in the first place actually resulted in us having to "relearn" the lesson sometimes multiple times! Instead of being able to eat meat, we are still having to eat soft foods!
Square one - the place we all begin. Square two - the next step in the progression of learning. How many times do we try to circumvent the natural progression of learning? It is like we want to take two stairs at once, making the climb much quicker, but then we wonder why we are winded, have muscle pains the next day, and forgot what we were to learn by taking each step with intention! When the step builder placed each of those steps in their natural upward progression, he never intended us to skip any one of them! In fact, he built them at the perfect "rise" so we wouldn't have undo strain or stress in making the climb. When we learn to listen, forsaking our bad habit of not listening, it is as though we are learning to take each step in progression. We often avoid some of the issues we experience with not listening when we do. Just sayin!