“The Sacred art of Listening”
Allen Hein - September 12/2021
I have a new book called the
sacred art of listening that has made me do a lot of thinking
about how we communicate. I have felt for a long time that most
people including myself don’t really “listen”. Why would that be??
Perhaps, it is our own fault because of the way we speak. The
English language has a massive number of rules, if you remember
your school days English lessons. And we don’t like rules!! So we
break them all; we leave sentences unfinished; we use too many
unnecessary words; we babble; and, and let the listener guess what
That is probably why most
people don’t understand computers. A computer is a very precise
machine and it’s error messages are so specific that every single
letter has special meanings. No guesswork allowed. The common
phrase when computers were first taught to verbalize was “that
does not compute”.
All animals can communicate
with each other in different ways, humans included. I have been
thinking of the ways communication has changed over the history of
human life on this planet we live on. I can easily imagine that
humans started out similar to animals and birds, that is, using
strange sounds and body movements to portray different situations.
But not everyone would necessarily understand what was being
communicated, so the sound was changed to meet certain specific
conditions. Over time enough changes were developed to create
unique sounds, that developed into words
However many people
were so used
to body language and facial expression, and the
individual words did not always make their meaning
alphabet and a dictionary meant that words could be
explained individually so the meanings could be written
down and passed around without sound at all.
Unfortunately misunderstandings are a fact of life that
we have to live with, and our languages, both written,
and spoken, are full of problems. We are not always
careful with our choice of words leaving
our meaning unclear. We jump to conclusions and think we
know what the other person is going to say and either
interrupt or do not listen to the complete sentence. We
also do not complete our own
sentences, or we insert
extraneous words, that confuse our meaning.
And then we have people who
pay so much attention to tone of voice and facial expression that
they do not hear the words we are using. This is nothing new!
Jesus said “you have ears but you do not hear!; you have eyes but
do not see! People heard Him speak but did not understand. I
personally think that is why He spoke in parables so much of the
time. Take the following from Luke chapter 15 verses 11 to 32, for
And he said, A
certain man had two sons: And
younger of them said to his
"Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me”. And he divided unto them his living.
And not many days after the
younger son gathered all together, and took his journey
into a far country, and there wasted his substance with
And when he had spent all,
there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began
to be in want.
And he went and joined
himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him
into his fields to feed swine.
And he would fain have filled
his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no
man gave unto him.
And when he came to
himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's
have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with
I will arise and go to my
father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned
against heaven, and before thee,
And am no more worthy to be
called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
And he arose, and came to
his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his
father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on
his neck, and kissed him.
And the son said unto him,
Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight,
and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father
said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put
it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his
feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it;
and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was
dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And
they began to be merry.
Now his elder son was in the
field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard
music and dancing.
And he called one of the
servants, and asked what these things meant.
And he said unto him, Thy
brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted
calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
And he was angry, and would
not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated
And he answering said
to his father, Lo, these many years
do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy
commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I
might make merry with my friends:
But as soon as this thy son
was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots,
thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
And he said unto him, Son,
thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
It was meet that we
should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and
is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
recognize this as the parable of the “prodigal son”, but
who is it really about? Jesus did not take time to explain
it. I have been told when telling a story one should
always introduce the main character first. Jesus starts
out “A certain
man"; had two sons. Which I interpret to mean the father is the
have the two sons. Jesus talks about the
reaction of both, so we could have a story about any one
of the three characters. Jesus gives no explanation about
this story, and all we have are the words he used, there
is no tone of voice or facial expression to give us a
With only words to
go by we have to draw our own conclusions. All three characters have
reactions that could be the main subject of a
us to draw our own conclusions and forced us to take
time to “think” and consider all the options!
The written word with all it’s rules took
to develop, and yet we have the arrogance to think the
we can ignore them, and
both “speak” and “listen”
to the unintelligible noises our ancient ancestors used
centuries ago! And
up our lack of intelligence with loud shouts of protest,
repetitive chants, waving
signs and distractive gestures to
try to make a point, that cannot be supported by facts.
On the other hand we
can confuse those we speak to by using language that
gives them something they want to hear, but does in no
way answer the question that was asked. Next time you
hear an interview with any politician “listen” carefully
to the question and then “listen” carefully to the
answer. I once told my wife a joke that ended with the
line “you do not have
to tell a woman the truth, as
long as you tell her something she wants to hear” She
was not amused!! Most
and pushy salespeople act
if that is true for everyone.
Let us pray that in our
relationship with God that we use no confusing words and actually
LISTEN for His answer, even if it is non verbal.