I Can’t Hear You

  • Randy Karlberg
Man and a woman having coffee together

It has never really struck me in this way before, but I am realizing that sitting down and having a conversation over a meal or a cup of coffee is becoming a lost art.  It sounds kind of crazy, but when you think about how we currently enter into conversation in our culture, it is the norm to not know how to really converse with one another.  Am I talking about co-workers?  Yes.  Am I talking about neighbors?  Yes.  And am I talking about married couples? Yes!  And yes of course family members.  We have lost what seems to be an essential ability to co-existing, and that would be how to have a conversation. 

Oh please don’t misunderstand me.  We have not lost the ability to talk!  That is something that in my opinion we do too much of!  Not that we have too many conversations, rather we are intoxicated with simply expelling words from our orbicularis oris.  As to whether it makes sense or not is not really a major concern seeing as no one is listening anyway because they are either focusing on the next thing they are about to vocally emit or they are orating concurrently.  Need I remind you of the best example showing the degradation of verbal exchange, specifically the last U.S. Presidential debates!  Okay, I apologize for bringing up such a painful memory.  Just look at how people try and debate today.  They get started sharing their thoughts and it ends up in a shouting match where everybody gets angry.  It seems impossible for modern humans to have a civil discussion on many topics.  Pick from topics such as worldview, racial issues, religion, and of course politics.  Most of us don’t even dare to entertain an open conversation with another seeing as it will likely end in anger or even worse, hostility.  So yes, it does seem as if conversation is a lost practice. 

But is this really new?  Scripture teaches us many lessons regarding how to speak and equally as important, when not to speak.  Proverbs 17:27-28, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.  Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”  Lesson #1 – It is not always good to speak.  And when you can hold your spirit in check you achieve greater understanding.  Lesson #2 – (my personal favorite) Even if you have no idea what is going on, stay quiet and people will think you are just being, say contemplative.   Along this same line is a beloved quote from Abraham Lincoln.  “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”  There is power in controlling one’s tongue.  When a person of few words speaks, it is hard not to be quiet and listen. 

Lesson #3 – comes from a very familiar verse in the Book of James.  James 1:19-20, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  So what we read here is that if you listen first and contemplate your next words, you will be more likely to control your anger and live in a way that pleases God.  This is a great suggestion, but can anyone really do that?  And how about in the marriage relationship?  I am here to share that one couple in my many years of pre-marriage counseling explained to me their “ground rules” regarding “conversations.”  A – They don’t talk when their spouse is talking.  B – They think about what their spouse is saying while they are talking and refrain from formulating their retort.  And finally

C – they pause to gather their thoughts before they speak in rebuttal.  The reason they put these into place was they found that when they interrupted each other their voices just naturally began to get louder and louder.  Soon they were shouting at each other.  They also wanted to give their spouse the love they were promised by genuinely considering what they had to say.  Another ramification of these conversation ground rules is that they were not as likely to say something they would regret or have to apologize for because they took the time to consider what they were going to say before they sent the exclamatives flying.  They must have thought that I was rather intelligent because I did not have words to respond to their agreed upon conversing practices.  I marveled at their wisdom.  And it worked well for them. 

And so I confess to you the need of, and implore you to seek, the sharpening of our dialogue abilities.  God’s Word commands us to rein in our tongue and show restraint with our words.  Set some personal goals on how to improve your communication strategies so as to be obedient to the Lord and to enhance your personal relationships.  And just imagine how flabbergasted a stranger would be if you actually listened to them as they expounded to you on a topic where you had a completely different viewpoint than theirs?  Who knows, they may even be speechless?  Now get out there and have a real conversation, would ya please?