Listen With Your Eyes…Look With Your Ears!

Not everything we see with our eyes, or hear with our ears is as apparent as our senses would communicate. All too often, behind what we see and hear is a completely different reality: Like the loved one we saw and spoke with earlier in the day, who was full of smiles and laughter, but who, by the afternoon, had taken her life. All too often, the common response is: “I didn’t see it coming!”

No, we didn’t see it coming, because what we saw was not the pain and brokenness of the loved one, the friend. What we saw was the vine of green that hid the fragile, crumbling wall behind. And when it crashes to the ground, we’re at a loss. Our inability to discern what was about to occur, together with the pain of deep loss, leaves us devastated.

Can we do anything about it?

I confess, it’s never going to be easy, and honestly, there will be times when that vine of pretence has been nurtured for so long, it will be nigh impossible to see the brokenness behind. But we live surrounded by so many lives that have been crushed: children by sexual abuse, teenagers by the divorce of their parents, wives by the verbal abuse of their husbands. It’s all around us, and we’re not seeing it! We simply have to do better; we have to strive to bring healing where so many are hurting.

I have two suggestions:

  1. Listen with your eyes

Would you tolerate a made up name for a major deformity in typical conversation? Let’s call it C.A.D (Communicative Attention Disorder). Have you noticed how many times when talking to someone, they’re not looking at you? And before you get up onto your “high and mighty”, there are many who would say that of you, of me. We’re not looking at the person we’re talking to, and the subtle message we give is that we’re not really listening. I suggest to you that this little practice of looking intently, and only, at the person with whom we are having a conversation has the massive potential to open up an incredible window into that persons heart, to see behind the ‘guard’. That’s because the message we give them is that we really do care. And when that’s the message, they will pull back, though little by little, the vine of pretence and reveal what hides behind.

2.  Look with your ears

My marriage has taught me just how desperately I need to exercise this. Many a time, when responding with a clinical ‘fix it’ reply to something my wife has said, she will say: “You’re not hearing me”, to which I will reply, “I’ve heard every word”, when in reality I missed seeing what she was really saying. How is that? I think it is because I, and perhaps too many like me, listen two dimensionally (2-D). 2-D listening is flat; it’s surface level listening. It’s not looking for more than what is heard. But then there is 3-D listening. This is the kind of multifaceted listening that recognises that behind words and sentences are experiences and emotions. To look with our ears therefore, sees the words of another as highway that not only travels in my direction, but lends me a lane to travel in theirs. I listen, looking and considering, being cautious to provide a quick reply, but allowing the silence between their sentences to lead to further sentences, that lead to further sentences, each one, giving me a bigger ‘picture’. We may think the other person wants a response, when in truth, all they want is that we see.

Listening with our eyes, and looking with our ears is one of the ways we are best equipped to live the Litmus Life. It opens our ears and eyes to discern best, and with deep sensitivity, just how we are able to serve others.

Listen with your eyes; Look with your ears!

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