I don’t know if selective hearing is an actual diagnosis, but I have come across several examples of it in my life. My Grandfather, after years of factory work, had real loss of hearing. Yet there seemed to be times when it was worse than others. If a conversation didn’t interest him, he would claim later that he hadn’t heard what was said. However, if his beloved New York Mets were on TV, he could hear everything the commentators had to say.
Another type of the phenomenon of selective hearing falls under the sub-title of ‘hearing what we want to hear,’ regardless if it is actually said. An example of this that remains firmly lodged in my memory is the time my partner at work and I were called into the superintendent’s office. He regretfully had to tell us that our positions were being eliminated. He expressed genuine sorrow over losing two good workers and promised to help us in any way he could to find other employment, without specifically pointing us toward any other jobs.
As my co-worker and I left the building we discussed what our options were going forward. He then said something to me that stopped me in my tracks: “At least John said we could have those jobs in the warehouse if we wanted them.” I was flabbergasted. I’ve recorded above pretty close word for word was said at that brief meeting. There was no mention of warehouse jobs being offered to us. My friend was apparently exercising selective hearing rather than facing the real prospect of losing his job. When I pointed this out to him, he indignantly told me that I must not have been listening!
These things all came to mind this morning as I read 1 Samuel Chapter 8. A brief summary of this chapter finds Samuel, a long-time and devoted servant of God growing old and less able to lead the people. He assigns his two sons to take over, but they are corrupt. The people then begin to clamor that Samuel appoint a king over them, just like all the nations around them have. Samuel takes this as an affront to him, but God points out that it is Him the Israelite’s are truly turning their backs on by demanding a worldly leader.
Now to the connection to selective hearing: After God has told Samuel to appoint the people a king, the old prophet then relays to them what God has said will happen because they have chosen this course of action. For the full run-down of what God’s warning was, go to 1 Samuel 8:10-18. I summarize it this way: By choosing to snub your nose at God, your king will basically take away all your freedoms, making life burdensome, hard and without hope.
The people, choosing selective hearing of these things, would hear none of this. But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8:19-20 NIV).
This reads to me like the people not only were using selective hearing, but also were looking at the nations around them through rose-colored glasses! The neighboring nations they wanted to be like were usually led by tyrants, who took what they wanted and oppressed their own people without concern. Yet this was somehow more appealing that trusting and following God.
How many of us, myself included, have tendencies like these? The old saying is that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. What we have seems to pale when compared to the greater things that are always just out of our reach.
What I/we lose sight of when we get to this place is the never-ending faithfulness of God. He has promised to always be with us. He will never forsake us. His record for keeping His promises is a perfect 100%. And though He is always there with us, at no time has He promised that by having faith in Him will our lives be lived on Easy Street. In fact, our faith will at times cause us to suffer the scorn and ridicule of others. In some places on the globe, it can cost you your life.
So why not ask for a king? Why not have someone else fight your battles for you with the only cost being the lost of all your basic freedoms? That’s what the people basically said to Samuel. We must not fall into this same trap. Don’t allow selective hearing to obscure the full-measure of God’s care for you. Taken in its entirety, the word of God promises a peace the world can neither supply or understand. Our ever-present, merciful and loving God delivers this peace, if only we will give Him our complete attention. As we do, we will hear His voice, in whatever form He chooses to let you hear it, unfiltered by selective hearing. What you will hear will be beyond wonderful. Keep your ears fully open to what He has for you; you’ll find the selection awesome beyond words!
Thanks for reading,