Some people listen better than others, but everyone has moments when they just do not listen well. There are many reasons why we miss things we should have heard. Sometimes we are distracted, or we think we already know the information so we “zone out”, or we think we know better than the person speaking so we ignore them. There are even moments when we do not think what is being said is important or relevant and we just pay no attention to the information being dispensed. In most cases we do not intentionally ignore, our brain takes over and we just shut them out.

One of the reasons this happens is because to listen intently requires a lot of focus and energy. It requires us to be intentional to take in the things that are being said. One of the reasons that the staff hiring process is so exhausting for me is because of the early phone interviews with the candidates. I may do 40-50 calls in short period of time and most of them cover the same information. I ask the same questions over and over again. When done, I am usually wiped out because I have had to intentionally focus on each conversation to make sure I had the information I needed. Listening rarely happens by accident.

Looking back over my life, there are some specific places where I wish I had listened better. Had I been more intentional, it would have solved some problems for me both then and now. Instead, there were things I missed that created problems and issues that at times were painful. Recently I have been thinking about this some and recognized three areas I wish I had listened better.

Relationships
Not just any relationship. Every relationship. There is not a single relationship I have ever had that listening better would not have eliminated certain pain and problems. Marriage would be better. I would have been a better parent. My friendships would have been different. One of the greatest challenges of any relationship is communication and half of communication is listening. I have missed hints from my wife, important stories from my children and concerns of my friends. Every single relationship in my life would have been better had I been more intentional about listening.

Education
I did pretty well in school. I certainly had my moments when there were struggles but my grades we decent. One of my biggest hindrances in listening while in school was I didn’t think I needed it. Not that I did not need to learn, but usually I comprehended things fairly quickly and so my brain moved on to other things. During those times when things were being repeated and rehearsed, I missed important information. Some of the things I missed during those moments had nothing to do with the subject at hand. Sometimes it was the teacher offering some nugget of wisdom or watching people interact who were struggling in an area I was not. These things just passed right by me and I missed something that may not have benefitted me immediately, but certainly would have been a guide later.

Spirit
I come from a perspective of faith. Obviously part of what I do is pastor a church. So if you stop reading here that is your choice, but this might be something you need to listen to. Some of the moments I have most missed it in my life was when I ignored the Holy Spirit speaking. Sometimes it was conviction about something I needed to change. This blog may very well be one of those times the Holy Spirit was speaking conviction to me. Sometimes it was a change I needed to make or a truth I needed to accept. Other times it was guidance and direction that I was ignoring. In each of those times, there was some cost extracted for ignoring the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Some of my most joyous and refreshing moments came because I listened. Some of my most painful experiences came because I did not. I would encourage you to do the work to listen. You cannot go back and “re-hear” what you missed. But you can start today with intentional listening. It will change almost every part of your life.