Are You in the Zone?

So, it was November; I turn my head and when I look back, it’s January. Sorry.

Today, I listened to a sermon and I was struck between the difference between being right and being heard. I agreed with the thrust of it, with what the speaker was trying to communicate but something was lost in the communication. Mostly, it was too long: too much bread around the filling.

It is so easy to undermine what we say by the way we say it: not looking at someone while chatting with them; talking about things that should make us smile but not smiling; too much theory, too few examples; too little theory, too many examples; speaking too loud for too long or too quiet for too short. There is this zone of necessity where you have to satisfy a basketful of things all at the same time, in order to communicate effectively. There is so much that affects whether your listener buys into what you are saying:  the comfort of the surroundings; their attention span; the time of the day; the tone of your voice; the speed of your words… It is a wonder we can talk to each other at all! Of course, two people having a chat is a different thing to listening to a talk. In the former, you can ask questions and frown and respond and either party can be in the spotlight for a time – there’s a kind of balance to a conversation. Whereas when you’re listening to a talk, it ‘s all one-sided.

I guess that means that we need to go easy on someone when they are giving a talk and the speaker needs to go easy on us. An awareness of this pretentiously-named zone of necessity is important: it is more than just trying to get something worthwhile across, it is also THE trying to get it across that is important.

But wait a minute, maybe distinguishing between a chat between two people and a talk with speaker and listeners is over-complicating it. They are made of the same stuff really (speaking and listening) but with a different spread of time between the parties. So, maybe the root lesson from all of this centres on how individuals treat each other. The listener must be gracious and understanding – the speaker is trying to get something across, it takes some effort and I might misinterpret them. The speaker must be humble and understanding – the listener is giving me their attention, it’s not always easy to listen to another and I might not come across as I intend.

So, after starting up on my high horse (even if he was only a few hands high), I’ve had to step back down on the ground. This happens: our pride highlights the failings of another and skims over our failings. Jesus put it this way:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (1)

Again, the Word appears through the fog of my thoughts and shows me how things really are.

It’s ironic that the sermon was on making a habit of reading the Bible.

Hoping he’s in the zone,

JcJ.

1. Matthew Chapter 7: verse 3, NIV translation of the Bible. That’s not to say that other people’s failings are not real and that we can’t help them to overcome them but that we need to do it with great care and humility.

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