Wednesday, April 26, 2006


The title was intriguing – “New glasses can improve your hearing” – but I did not have time to click on the link to read the article. I should have taken the time. Then I might know how to help all the folks I come across who obviously need a prescription for new eyeglasses. Of course, I don’t fit in the hard of hearing category. I hear everyone fine (as long as you speak up). I’m more “hard of understanding” with some conversations.

For example, I met a sweet Southern lady a few months after I moved to Georgia, and she always ends our conversations with, “We (her and her daughter) love you. Come see us sometime.” But she is nearly ninety now, her eyesight is rapidly deteriorating, and she is almost “as deaf as a door post,” so our conversations these last few years tend to be a bit strange.

SL (This stands for Southern Lady): “How are all your animals?”

JP: “My oldest cat died the other day.”

SL (She always draws out this response to emphasize her pleasure.): “Well, go-o-o-od, go-o-o-od. I’m glad all your animals are doing so well. And how’s your mama? Is she doing all right in this awful weather?”

JP: “No, she’s really feeling the heat and humidity.” I shake my head to emphasize my concern.

SL: “Well, go-o-o-od, go-o-o-od. I’m glad your mama is doing so well. And how are you doing? Are you still taking your dogs on those long walks?”

JP: “No. I injured my knee when I twisted my ankle and fell on the sidewalk yesterday. I won’t be taking the dogs on any long walks for a while.”

SL: “Well, go-o-o-od, go-o-o-od. I’m glad you’re all doing so well.”

I realize she is elderly and she does not give these inappropriate responses deliberately. I let them roll off my back. My mother is also elderly, with impaired vision and hearing, and we have had similar exchanges.

JP: A veterans’ group is using my story, ‘The Lesson of the Poppy.’” (Mother has a copy of this story.)

MAMA (I always thought her name was “Mother,” but, hey, when in Georgia -): “That’s nice. The pictures will be cute.”

JP: “What pictures?”

MAMA: “The animal pictures.”

JP: “What animal pictures?”

MAMA: “The pictures of the puppies.”

JP: (Totally bewildered.) “Puppies? What puppies?”

MAMA: “The puppies in your story.”

This was our “mis”-communication a few nights ago. This one tickled both of us, but usually we are not quite as forgiving with one another. We each tend to take what the other says personally. It hurts more to be misunderstood by family or friends than by strangers or acquaintances.

In the same vein, it hurts to be misunderstood by our brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, many times when someone asks, “How are you?” or “Is everything okay?” there really is no interest in hearing an honest answer. Family or friends, whether in the church or not, can suffer from avoid-the-truth-aphobia. This often happens when one gets the notion those in Christ should wear a mask separating them (I’ll wear a smile if it kills me) from the pain and anxiety of anyone who dares to be unmasked and in need of a listening ear. It can also happen when a Christian develops a critical spirit, and even though he is deaf and blind to the truth of others’ circumstances, he believes it is his place to set everyone straight.

I have felt the sting of do-gooders who “know what your problem is” and vocalize it in an angry, accusatory manner. I hate to admit it, but I am human and I have dished out some “I know it all” myself. The truth is we don’t know everything about anyone, not even about ourselves. The heart is deceitful above all things, remember. When we “know it all,” we do not listen and further mis-communication results, inflicting pain and perhaps resulting in estrangement. Too often we hear what we want to hear or what we expect to hear because we are not really paying attention.

People do not always talk directly about how they are doing, or explain to everyone they meet why they are overly emotional, talk excessively, act angry or withdraw. There might be physical or emotional abuse in the home, a chronic illness with symptoms that are not apparent to the casual observer, a terminally ill parent or child, or some other reason a person needs someone to listen and understand, even if nothing is vocalized. We should be sensitive to the expressions of others and not try to read our own fears, failures or dreams between the lines.

Yes, sometimes mis-communication can be funny or easily forgiven. Other times it can leave lasting scars and cause division. If anyone could complain about His words being misunderstood and misinterpreted, it would be Jesus. His words have been quoted and argued over for centuries. Can you picture it if He walked among us today?

Jesus: “We’re going to be late for the wedding if you make another wrong turn, Fred. We only have ten minutes before the ceremony. Turn right at the 7-11 on Ridgemont.”

C1 (Christian #1): “You heard him, Fred. Turn right at the Sunoco station.”

C2: “No, don’t turn right at the Sunoco station. He said to turn right at the Shell Service Center.”

C3: “He did not. I distinctly heard him say to turn right past the 7-11 on Riverdale.”

C4: “Well, he may have said to turn right at the Wal-mart Super Center, but he really meant for you to turn left.”

C5: “How do you come up with a left turn when I recorded him on my cell phone and he said just as clear as a bell to make a U-turn at Symphony Hall on Rockford?”

Can new glasses improve your hearing? I have no idea. But if anyone recognizes himself or herself in this story, you might want to ask God for new spiritual eyeglasses in order to see and hear clearly what the Word of God actually says.


Brooke said...

Hi Janice,

Great post, and what a unique way of showing this truth. Hmm... it brings to mind my own grandfather and the humorous exchanges he and I often have togther. I think sometimes our hearing, physical and spiritual, gets so bad that we need the other person to word things in an unusual way in order to understand them. Thanks for making me think, and God bless.

In Christ,

Vicki said...

This is a wonderful post, even though I'm convicted in several places:-) I think you're right--new spirit eyes to see and understand the heart will go far to make us better listeners. But that conversation between you and the southern lady was a hoot. Bless her heart, I have to say. She truly couldn't hear a word, but wanted so much to encourage you. Can't tell you how many times I've shared my heart with a friend, only to have them nod and look in other directions. Not that I'm boring, mind you:-) But distraction and poor listening skills seems rampant.

Thanks for writing on such an important topic, Jan.