“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”
— Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970)
Another legend to have died at 27 years of age, Hendrix had the rare talent for communicating with the masses. And his legend endures. We can only wonder, though, four decades on, what was behind the mind of such a learned young man, as far as life experience was concerned. What was behind this five-worded quote?
These five words, in symphony, provide us a very profound and enduring wisdom. This is because no matter how good a listener we think we are, the reality is likely to be opposite.
How Good at Listening Are We, Really?
As I reflect over my life there are many more examples of my failures to truly listen than my successes. That’s got to be true of most people, surely. Failed relationships and conflict within the relationships that go on are evidence enough that more often than not I find myself listening to myself and not others.
Listening is a peculiar thing like that. We may think we are good listeners, but we may be better at listening to ourselves and our own inner worlds than we are at listening, truly, to others—their challenges, needs, frailties, and concerns.
Listening, from this viewpoint, is much more an internal motivation. Our God-anointed opportunity is to become more externally motivated—to develop a sincere hunger for understanding regarding the lives of others, their troubles, and listening not just to the words they say, but also to the words they don’t say.
Listening, like humility, may be something we will always need to be mindful of; for the development. We have more problems with pride than with humility, just as we have more speaking problems than listening ones.
A Test of Honesty; The Veracity of Our Relationship with God
This subject is about honesty. How honest are we being when we think of ourselves as good listeners? If we were to be fair, in the sight of God, we would acknowledge how far we fall from God’s ideal, so far as listening is concerned. The more honest we are, the more we will recognise our need of God in the precious moments of our relationships—with every ‘neighbour’ (every human being).
The more front-of-mind we make Hendrix’s words the better it is for all we relate with; not least ourselves.
We could make a lifetime study of listening and still have much to learn. The better we listen the better we love. Our challenge is to listen to others, and not just to ourselves. Listening to other people has the blessings of wisdom written all over it.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.