Hear. Listen. Understand.


Most people are very good at hearing. We know the right stance and facial expressions and even the appropriate verbal responses to confirm our hearing. But hearing remains only a physical act if we fail to fully engage in the process.

My 14-year-old has perfected the art of hearing. Eye contact. Mostly stationary. “Yeah” and “Uh huh” in the right places. Yet, his behavior later often confirms that he stopped with only hearing my words.


Once we hear, the next step involves truly listening. This means we choose not to form our response while another person talks. It means we decide to give value to the words we hear because we value the person saying them. Listening means we recognize that the words hold meaning and purpose beyond their initial point of origin.

As my boys mature, they move beyond only hearing my words and into listening for value. They attempt to apply instruction not just in my presence but as a choice for responsible behavior. They seem to grasp, at least at times, what many adults seem to be conveniently confused about, that those with experience and who love us quite possibly have valuable instruction to help better our lives.


Next comes understanding. After we hear and choose to truly listen, application starts to become a reality through our habits, and understanding grows. As understanding blossoms, the activity of hearing and listening changes from surface value to one of depth. A sure sign of understanding involves a person seeking out opportunity to hear and listen rather than waiting for them.

When my boys seek out my or their father’s advice, we see signs of this process happening. When a student takes notes and asks questions of a teacher, understanding is being sought. When someone spends additional time, perhaps in meditative prayer, reading or studying, they show a desire for the process of hearing, listening and understanding to become habit.

Jesus encourages this process in Matthew 13 as does Isaiah in 6:9-10. Lots of other places in Scripture emphasize the point too. Only when someone truly gives himself to hear, listen and understand does he finally see the significance of the repetition.

“Then the godly will shine like the sun in their father’s kingdom: Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand.” (Matthew 13:43)

DISCUSSION: How does the “hear, listen & understand” process exist in your life?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

Related Post

12 Replies to “Hear. Listen. Understand.”

  1. As a pastor I KNOW I have to listen better than I might to a casual conversation or joking with friends. Sadly, I don't always catch the meaning or even seriousness of what someone is saying. i still have a lot of listening and learning to do.
    My recent post Acceptance

    1. We definitely have our part to play, and a pastor has an even bigger responsibility in this role of listening. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit has an even bigger role, and our realization of and submission to that can make all the difference in our ability to truly hear, listen and understand. I know you're as thankful for that as I am.

  2. There is often that temptation to exclaim "Me too!" and to respond by telling a similar story that happened to us. Or worse…to try and "one-up" the other person with our own story. Yet, I've found that it is often better to ask a follow-up question or to summarize what the person has just said. This demonstrates that we value what the other person has to say – that we are actively listening and seeking to understand where he/she is coming from.

    Few things are more ridiculous than listening to two people swap stories, but neither of them actually listens and responds to what was just said. Since I've had a child, I notice that many parents will do this when talking about their children. 🙂
    My recent post Bursting Our Self-Constructed Bubbles

    1. I have heard this exchange many, many times and have all to often been on one end of it. Creating a habit of asking questions & truly being interested in others above touting our own thoughts is a difficult discipline but one well worth the effort. And as noted in my reply to cycleguy, we just cannot have consistent, long-term success with this without the Holy Spirits intervention and interaction in us. Great points, Chris.

  3. I do not believe very many people listen well at all and certainly do not get to understanding. It takes work and an attitude that you are not the main topic. Listening and understanding someone is a powerful gift you can give them. It is a gift that does require effort on our part and at times asking questions so we can make sure we understand what is being communicated. It's tough but it is worth it. People appreciate being heard and not ignored.

    1. We're pretty good at hearing or at least looking like we're doing so, but you're right, people in general are not all that great at listening and understanding. This could probably be traced back as the root of many disputes both between individuals and between nations. Having the goal to understand rather than be understood can have a tremendous impact on people. The questions that I think of then when considering what you've said are: How have we gotten so bad at listening & understanding? What can we do about it? Also, we know Scripture extols the virtues of listening, but what does it say is the benefit to those we listen to? We receive wisdom when we learn to listen and understand, but what does it do for others, based on Scripture, when we strive to listen to and understand them? Great thoughts, Mark.

  4. My goodness this post brings conviction. Because we are in the ministry of listening to others the temptation to tell a story of my own to clarify is so strong often. I find in my own heart it's far from helping others when I fall into that temptation as if what I have to say is more important then the one I am suppose to be listening to. We have bible study tonight, think I will read your post to them Kari. I know you like all of us have not master this one, it won't be till we get to heaven. One look of His dear face will shut off any thoughts of self. I am not so sure it's a learning process as much as it is a dying to self daily.

    1. You hit on a key, here, Betty, to focus on Christ. The more I do that, and the more I talk to him, the better able I am to hear, listen and understand others. The more I become like Him, the better I minister to others in need. No, I certainly don't have this mastered. Not even close. In fact, much (if not all) of what I write on this blog comes from a place of struggle. I hope your group found the discussion helpful.

  5. Great communication and conversations happen when each of those 3 things happen. We need to discipline our self's to hear, listen, and understand. Great post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *