Men often have hearing problems. But once an elderly man was concerned his wife was getting hard of hearing. And so he asked his doctor how he could show his wife she has a hearing problem, in a sensitive and loving way. The doctor’s plan was simple: ‘From a long distance ask her a question. If she doesn’t reply take a step closer, and ask again. Get closer until she finally replies, then make a point that you’ve been asking from far away and it was only from this close that she heard. That will make the point.’
So the man went home and asked his wife: ‘Darling, what’s for dinner tonight?’ When she didn’t reply, he moved closer and asked again: ‘What’s for dinner tonight darling?’ No reply. He moved closer again. ‘Darling, what’s for dinner tonight?’ Still no reply, and so a step closer he asked the same question. No reply. Finally, he stood right beside her, and at last her reply came: ‘For the fifth time, ROAST LAMB!!!’
There is hearing, and there is really hearing. We all appreciate being listened to, but in truth, good listeners are rare. Often we think we know what our wife or friend is about to say, so tune out. Other times we appear to be listening but are just thinking of what we will say when they’ve finished, if we let them finish. At times we don’t even bother talking because we know it all. Poor listening can destroy relationships.
This year’s theme of NAIDOC Week – the Yirrkala Bark Petitions – came because of poor listening. The Yolgnu people from northeast Arnhem Land petitioned to the government to be listened to. Sadly, no one had talked with them about mining their land. I say with personal sorrow, it was the Christian Church managing the local mission who failed to listen… ‘We know what is best for them!’ The church and government allowed a mining lease without really hearing the significance this would have on their lives. The Bark Petitions were the Yolgnu simply asking that they be listened to and have some input in the plans for mining. History shows they were not completely opposed to mining. Unfortunately, they were never listened to.
Taking the time to really listen does wonders. Whether in marriage, the parents, at work, or even between Indigenous and Second Australians, active listening can avoid broken relationships and heal broken relationships. When someone says: ‘How many times do we have to talk about this?’… it’s a good indication that person is not really listening. Many relationships become stuck in a rut simply because one party is not being listened to. Even if you don’t think you are in the wrong, work hard at listening… really listen. Show you are listening by saying what you hear, or by putting what you hear into practice.
For the Christian we must be good listeners. God speaks through his Word the Bible, we listen. Our ears are the two most important things we have. Jesus said: ‘My brothers and sisters are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice’ (Luke 8:21).
How is your hearing?