#BlogElul Day 9: Hear
When I was in Middle School, I became convinced that I was going deaf. I was certain that I was missing parts of conversations and was really freaked out about the possibility that I might be losing my ability to hear.
My parents, being the loving and concerned people that they are, took me to a highly regarded doctor who ran every conceivable test over the course of an incredibly long day. In the late afternoon, the doctor finally walked out to the lobby where my father and I were waiting, sat down, and said:
“You don’t have a hearing problem. You have a listening problem.”
(FYI- Something like 15 years later, repeating this line will still make my entire family burst into laughter.)
The line between hearing and listening is something that I’ve explored since that long ago doctor’s visit. It’s a distinction that is even more critical to me now that I’m a rabbi. Sometimes, when I’m speaking with someone and it feels as if we’re actually having two separate conversations, I’ll remind myself that while I may be hearing her/him, I might not be actually listening to her/him. Listening goes beyond the simple function of being able to physically hear what a person is saying. Listening requires the processing and internalizing of what I’m hearing. And, while listening takes more energy, it also allows me to have more effective conversations and build deeper relationships.
While there are certainly days when I still feel like I have both a listening and hearing problem, I strive to bring a commitment to truly listen to as many interactions as I can.
Ps: I'm including a picture from my bat mitzvah service so that you can imagine my face as I heard what that unintentionally hilarious doctor had to say.