It is one thing to be inflicted with almost a global hearing loss, but it is quite another thing to realize that even the listening power is at a very low ebb. To be able to LISTEN demands more of the individual than mere hearing. In listening, one's whole being has to be attuned to and even absorbed by what is being said by another. Body and soul are called upon to cooperate in every act of listening. Much is required both of the body and of the soul. The body needs to stop any major activity in which it is engaged. The head is expected to turn towards the person speaking, with eyes fixed on the speaker. The will of a would-be listener is expected to come up with a WANT to listen. The mind must be cleared of thought and be set into a receptive mode. A true act of listening calls upon the whole being of a person to give his/her full attention to what is being said. It is no easy task in our day for anyone to become a "good listener."
That listening is put into the category of an "art" is understandable. In any area of a bookstore or library, under the title of "self help," one might come across a title such as, "The Art of Good Listening." Why is it understandable? Because we are a damaged people. This must be the chief reason. Remember, way back in King David's time, people must have had this problem. In Psalm 115: 6 we read, "They have ears, but do not hear." The same problem appeared in Jesus' time. How often we find Him saying in the gospels, "He who has ears, let him hear." This problem gave concern to Jesus as He quotes the prophet in Matthew 13: 15, "Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted and I will heal them." It must be that the problem of good listening is a characteristic of fallen man. It is part of our lot in being conceived in Original Sin. In spite of the fact that this Sin has been washed away by Baptism, we still find heavy on our shoulders its effects.
In my next installment I will continue with this as I share my counseling experience about listening and how satan manipulates us to not hear what is truly being said.
To review Father Valenta's previous columns in this series, go to Archives beginning with the August 18, 1997 issue of A CALL TO PEACE: volume 8, no. 16.