Hearing And Understanding

I’ve discovered various stages in the hearing process

  1. I hear… sounds are made… I know someone’s speaking
  2. I listen… I’m aware of what’s said – I can repeat the words
  3. I understand… there’s meaning… the words make sense
  4. I perceive… I recognise context, body language, implications
  5. I respond… I reply, change my attitude, act or react…

I’m sometimes accused of only achieving stages 1 or 2 when stage 4 and 5 are required!

‘I did tell you!’

This problem is nothing new.

Jesus was a great story teller. People enjoyed  and were entertained by his stories, but didn’t understand them. He described the crowds by quoting the ancient prophet Isaiah: ‘…ever seeing but never perceiving and ever hearing but never understanding.’


This morning we’re shocked by the murder of Sir David Amess, the Southend MP. Boris Johnson described him as ‘one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics’.

We continue to see the challenges caused by rising numbers of Covid cases, overflowing accident and emergency departments, the growing backlog of vital operations…

We can hear the stories, but fail to understand their significance.


My friends at the Seagull Theatre say:

‘Strive is our new weekly group for young people whose lives have been affected by substance abuse or addiction in their family. Often when a household includes someone who struggles with issues around addiction, the young people in that family can be affected by low confidence, trauma or isolation…’

They have heard a local need, understood it and responded to it…


Amongst all of the noise coming into my life from the world around me I seek to listen to the gentle, quiet voice of awareness, conscience, God’s Spirit… appreciating the joys and sorrows of those in my world in a deeper way… seeing the anxiety behind the smile, the fear behind the loudness, the needs behind the independence…

That hearing I will understand.

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