Can I Have Your Undivided Attention?

Written by: Angela Mercer

For the past few years there has been an influx of articles and blogs on how social media and electronic devices are taking over the world and leaving us feeling more disconnected then ever and that kids today have little to no social skills due to the amount of time spent on these devices. While I don’t want to be yet another voice that addresses this issue, I do want to address the issue of listening. Our little fingers can go a mile a minute and text responses so quickly that, when in person, we sometimes lack the skills to truly listen to people.

When others tell you that you are a good listener, it can be tempting to give yourself a check mark after “Listening Skills” and forget that we probably should revisit that and see if there’s room for improvement.

I have had to improve in my listening skills. Always wanting to share my two cents can really get in the way of listening. I heard one author say that most people listen to respond, rather than really hear and understand. And so the latter, has been my focus this year. I want to slow down and really hear what people are saying.

When we take the time to listen are we giving the person our undivided attention? We have become pros at multitasking. Adam McHugh in The Listening Life talks about how our devices are changing the way our brains commute,

“What is less obvious is how the Internet, smartphones and social media are changing the physical characteristics of our brains by rerouting our neural pathways. We like to think that we are the ones acting on our devices, but the truth is that our devices also act on us. Many neurological studies demonstrate that our technology is reshaping our brains so that it not only seems more difficult to concentrate on one thing, it is harder to concentrate on one thing. If we’re immersed in technology day after day, our brains are automatically branching out to do several tasks at once, making it difficult to focus our attention on any one thing. Technology writer Linda Stone says that our brains seem stuck in “continuous partial attention.””

In other words, our brains are taking on the form of our technology. Hearing a million things at once, buzzing from one message to the next, in a constant state of hyper-awareness, over stimulated and unable to concentrate on one single thing.

As Christians, there is the added concern of what this is doing to our relationship with the Lord. Do we listen to him like we listen to people? Do we wait long enough to hear what he is saying in the silence? Or do we rush right onto the next thing as we aren’t hearing from Him quickly enough? Is our relationship with God all one sided telling Him all our woes and giving Him requests or are we allowing time for Him to speak to us as well? Are we so distracted we can’t hear Him anyway as we are thinking about our do-lists and that we forgot to take something out of the freezer for supper.

We live in a time when people more then ever feel disconnected and lonely, desperately seeking their purpose and we have the privilege of knowing a personal God who wants to spend time with His children. He wants to come alongside to nurture, love and tell them all He has planned for them!

Now that I have a 13 year old daughter I want it for her too. When I see her scrolling through Instagram and I see the pains of her feeling left out or less than, the conversation of where our worth and identity come from is always on the table. We talk about it everyday it seems. I encourage her to stay in the Word of God, and ask God what He thinks of her and not leave that up to her friends or social media to decide. But hearing those thoughts from God won’t come to her at the swift click of a button it is going to be an investment and she will need to learn the art of listening.

So, how are your listening skills? Have they waned over the years? Do you find you are anxious for quick answers and if you don’t get the answers right away you go to people or social media for your encouragement? Do you find it difficult to give people your undivided attention? Maybe its time to take a look at our listening skills again and see if there’s room for improvement.

Her sister, Mary, sat at His feet listening to what He taught. Luke 10:39 NLT

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 NLT

When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Lamentations 3:28-30 MSG

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