Listening isn't easy. We all grow up learning that listening is necessary, and by the time we reach adulthood, we recognize the value of listening. Regardless of how necessary or valuable we know listening is, though, we do not necessarily value the practice of listening.
Listening is difficult because thinking is natural. When others talk, we think. If someone starts doling out directions, we think about what we rather do. If someone offers advice, we think about the solution we rather pursue. If someone just needs to talk, we think about all the fantastic knowledge we possess that can bring help. Our minds are always so busy rifling through all that we know and want to do or say that we end up completely missing what anyone tries to communicate.
Listening requires shutting off our thoughts. True listening means focusing on another person's words instead of our own thoughts. Mentally we must step back and allow the speaker however much quiet, empty space he or she requires. We must resist the urge to impose our thoughts over the speaker's words because when we do, we totally discolor and bury every word and underlying emotion. Then we not only misunderstand the speaker but also send the message that our thoughts matter most.
It is important to listen to others, but it is necessary to listen to God. Listening to God requires a more extensive mental stillness. To hear God, we must recognize that we do not know the right way through life, humbly step back from trying to impose our plans on our lives, and silently wait for God to whisper into the quiet space that is usually a loud, chaotic web of thoughts.
Listening is not easy.