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Listen, don’t over think, and wish for a little grace

I am not a listening expert. I am not even a good listener. For me, active listening is a constant struggle. I am a thinker. I like to think. I like to figure things out. Most of the time, I don’t listen because I am thinking. These two qualities drive my wife, Mariah, crazy. It is not intentional. I don’t listen when she needs me to and I over think when she doesn’t want me to. Poor listening was a challenge for me in school, in my relationships, and now with our 3 boys. Grace has been the only thing that has saved me.
School was hard for me. I struggled in school, but somehow managed to complete a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, a Master of Science in Nursing, and a Master of Business Administration. I wasn’t the best student because I didn’t actively listen.
Relationships are hard for me. My relationship with Mariah has not been easy – which is my fault. We were set up blindly. A great mentor in my life tried to get me to contact her for months before I followed through on his request. I was resistant to his suggestion because I was over thinking. It was close to 6 months before I finally listened. One morning when I met with him around the end of December 2001, I decided that I just needed to call her. I did and we decided to meet for the first time on Jan 2, 2003. I was so nervous and uncomfortable that I asked her to meet me at my friend’s house. Was that a great way to start our relationship or what? Just imagine how difficult it was for me to focus on her and listen to her with my friend right by our side. Here is this beautiful girl that I left hanging for 6 months and she is sitting next to my friend and I. As the night progressed, I began to worry that she was more interested in him than me. He carried most of the conversation and I just sat there thinking and not listening to either of them talk. No offense Brad, but I probably should have started our relationship a little differently.
Believe me when I say that I have made, and continue to make, plenty of mistakes – usually due to over thinking and poor listening. If you don’t believe me, just ask Mariah and she will confirm – at least she reminds me on a daily basis. Mariah, I don’t mean that in a bad way. I do appreciate you helping me be a better person. I could write a whole lot about all of the mistakes I have made since the day I met Mariah. I think you are getting the picture. Here are just a few examples of how I over think and don’t listen:

  1. I am easily distracted and don’t listen
  2. I am very focused on the outcome and don’t listen
  3. I get selfish and don’t listen
  4. I put my needs first and don’t listen
  5. I think about what is in it for me and don’t listen
  6. I think about what will make me happy and don’t listen

The sad thing is that it has taken me a long time to realize this problem. Mariah frequently tells me what to do, what she wants, or what she expects. For instance, she is talking to me as I am writing this blog and I am struggling to listen to her. I just don’t hear it and she jokes that I need a hearing aid.
I want to be a great active listener. I really do until I have an experience like I did this morning. My ineffective listening manifested itself a little differently. It manifested in my boys. After the whole experience, I didn’t have the energy to listen. It was raining. Mariah said that traffic was bad and she now felt rushed. I heard that, but this time our boys weren’t listening to the message. While she was gathering all of their belongings for camp and all of her belongings for work, I was trying to get them in the car. I was feeling rushed, but they weren’t:

  1. Madden was sitting on the couch. Mariah told him well before we needed to leave that his breakfast was ready. After I got dressed, I asked him if he was going to eat and he said he didn’t know it was ready.
  2. Miles needed help putting on his shoes because he picked the one pair with a knot that couldn’t be untied. I think it had set in since last year. I asked him if he could wear a different pair and he said he really needed that pair. I spent a good 5 to 10 minutes getting the knot untied. I did break one of my finger nails (not a big deal since it didn’t play a big role for my body).
  3. On the way out of the door, Mariah grabbed rain coats for the boys since it was raining. Madden proceeded to argue with her about why he didn’t need a rain coat. His argument continues all the way to dropping him off despite our constant reminders about why he needed it and despite the fact that it was pouring down rain which he could see outside the car window.
  4. As we waited for the bus to arrive, Miles and a few other boys were throwing a tennis ball. You would think this was harmless. It was until the ball starting getting thrown into the parking lot. Cars were pulling in. The bus was pulling in (from the wrong direction, by the way). I didn’t notice this because I was in the car trying to get Madden to listen and get out.

When we arrived at work, Mariah let me know that she had forgotten her breakfast and lunch. She has to work 12 hours today.

The more I noticed my boys poor listening skills, the more I thought “What the hell have I done. Did I really produce these disrespectful, argumentative monsters?” I did and they really aren’t disrespectful or argumentative – well they are to me but no one else. Why don’t they listen? Why am I constantly repeating myself? If the boys had listened this morning, we might not have reached the point of rushing and Mariah might not have forgotten her breakfast and lunch. On a side note, there was one good thing about this morning thanks to a little grace from God – Max slept in and we weren’t slowed down by his inability to listen.

As I drove to work, I thought about all of the things I have missed due to poor and ineffective listening. Yes, that is a pic my boys running away as I was trying to wrangle them up for a picture. This is a constant dynamic. If I would have just stopped and listened a little more, it might have changed the course of my life. I might be smarter. I might not have delayed my relationship with Mariah. I might have created a better relationship with Mariah (don’t misunderstand, we have a great relationship). I might have made our relationship a little closer to perfect. I might have given our boys a better chance. They might actually listen.
I do worry about my boys. Despite all of the difficulty, I am appreciative of the grace I have received. Without that grace, I would be lost. Thankfully, I eventually listened to Dr. C. I am glad he had the patience, had the persistence, and understood Luke 23:34. I had no idea what I was doing and he knew that because he listened. I am sorry it took me so long to finally listen and follow through. I am grateful for his grace. Without his grace, I would have missed Mariah.
I am glad I finally called Mariah. I know my poor listening skills have caused a lot of problems for her and I hope she is glad I finally made the call. Hopefully, she isn’t too resentful about the damage I have caused and hopefully she doesn’t blame our boys inability to listen on my bad example. If she is or if she does, I pray that I have learned to listen so that I can do the right things to help her forgive me. I know she is listening because she continues to put up with me. I am also grateful for her grace. Without her grace, I would be alone today.
I hope our boys learn to listen. I hope I can keep Luke 24:34 in mind when they don’t listen. I hope I can give them a little bit of the grace that has been given to me. I pray the people they get surrounded by in their life listen to them. I hope the people in my boy’s life give them a little grace when they don’t listen.


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