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500+ for 50 – day 22: selective hearing

Have you ever heard someone use the term “selective hearing”?  Selective hearing occurs when a person’s auditory signals are directed towards the things that they wish to hear while unpleasant noise is essentially blocked from their brain’s processing system.  This is not a physical disability as all noises are received by the individual’s auditory system, but only the sounds that encourage a pleasing or positive response tend to make it to the listener’s mind for further processing.  These types of habits can be very evident in young children who respond very favorably to gifts and rewards but seem to be able to tune out responsibility and punishment altogether.  That’s to be anticipated right?  I mean they’re just kids.  It’s when we see these traits present themselves in adults that we aren’t nearly as forgiving. 

I think that we all expect age and maturity to rid those around us of the childlike attributes that make relationships and communication difficult.  So often we respond quickly with negativity to the selective hearers in our lives who distort our words and gather alternative meanings from the things that we say.  It can be challenging not to…we all want to be acknowledged for the truth and sincerity behind the statements that we make.  But we need to be careful not to let the pot call the kettle black.  The reality is that we all employ selective hearing from time to time.  In a world where technology and rapid processing is being pushed on us day after day, it has become a means of survival.  The world can be overwhelming.  And society’s pace of living will not slow down anytime soon.  So you need to expect people to fast forward to the good parts, it’s their way of finding comfort in the midst of madness.

That’s a challenging one.  Too much comfort will kill you.  But we all desire a little of that home cooking, hug from mama-type of feeling every once in awhile.  The unfortunate thing about comfort is that it’s far too often a blatant liar.  Comfort is many times the byproduct of living a fear driven life.  And fear is a monster.  It will seek to control every aspect of your being by encouraging you to run back to safety every single time that adversity comes knocking.  Fear uses comfort to manipulate the mind into retreating at the first perceived threat.  When you cater to comfort, your appetite for risk is starved.  And your life becomes a representation not of who you are meant to be but rather who you feel safe in being among those around you.

Individuals ridden with fear and anxiety are notorious for being selective listeners.  I know this to be true because I’ve been one of those people at varying points of my life.  As a person with anxiety, I had a place that I considered my comfort zone.  It was a lot like home base in a game of tag with children.  As a kid, it takes a bit of courage to step out of security and run with the other children at the threat of being caught.  That first step out into the danger zone sends most kids’ adrenaline through the roof.  And like children, many people love that rush.  Some spend their lives seeking it.  But individuals with anxiety and panic disorders are wired a bit differently.  We will spend every waking moment trying to avoid that feeling because to us, the adrenaline spike can be absolutely intolerable.  When we are threatened with fear, our minds instruct us to remain as close to our comfort zones (home bases) as possible.  And unfortunately to our detriment, many times we listen.

While it may frustrate you to find yourself in a conversation with someone who employs selective hearing, please do keep in mind that they are suffering too in ways that they cannot necessarily understand in that moment.  A person who is risk or responsibility averse or who is overwhelmed with fear and anxiety will often selectively hear the words that give them comfort.  Because that is a person’s number one goal when threatened by fear, to restore peace and quiet.  Already in a position to feel overcome by panic and anxiety, a person will often make every effort to tune out all of the words that could possibly pose a threat to their calm.  And they will latch on to the words that bring them peace.  It’s a means of survival in their battle with fear. 

That’s why in my recovery from a severe anxiety disorder I’ve tried to make a focused effort to become uncomfortable with comfort.  I take risks and make efforts to push myself beyond my preconceived limits every single day.  Because I know that I am going to be put in positions in life, in situations and in conversations with others that are going to cause me to hear things a certain way.  And I want my mind to be trained to respond to adversity effectively when I receive an auditory signal of distress.  I was not put on this earth to ignore or flee the battles that lie before me…I was put here to fight them.  If I make it a habit of attaching my peace and happiness to comfort, I will sleep through the siren beckoning me to war.  

And this is a battle that I must fight, not simply for myself but for others too who are now resting quietly in their comfort zones unaware of the blood being shed just outside their windows.  Perhaps someday they will hear my victory cry and start envisioning for themselves the glory to found in adversity.  Then when the enemy returns they will be prepared to listen to their calling and slay the comfort driven soul within.

Selective hearing doesn’t need to be your downfall.  You just need to be careful to tune in to the right programming.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 21: case dismissed

Throughout the course of my life I’ve far too often assumed the role of judge.  And quite honestly it’s about time that I own up to my actions and direct my full attention towards becoming a more accepting individual.  I spend a good bit of my time writing to inspire and empower those around me, yet I tend to frequently regress in hypocritical fashion by judging the life choices of others who may not yet be in a position to hear the message that I’m working so hard to convey.  If you don’t buy in to the mission that I’m selling, that does not make you a bad person.  I’m just as flawed as the man standing next to me.  And it wasn’t long ago that I was riddled with compulsive, addictive, and damaging habitual behaviors. Up until my late twenties I could have never called myself a man of faith as I do today.  I was nothing more than the image of endless potential being wasted.  If anyone’s life was deserving of criticism, it was mine.

So why is it that I am so impatient at times with those around me who are not on my schedule of personal transformation?  That’s a tough question.  I really do not like the person that I become in those moments when I sit back and critique the limitations of others.  I can feel the negativity stirring within me as critical thoughts develop in my mind. And while I am far more disciplined now than I ever have been at any other stage in my life, I still tend to slip from time to time and allow my innate desire to play judge get the best of me.  Perhaps it’s my own insecurities still fighting for their place in my mind?  I guess the devil really doesn’t want to let go.  He knows that if he can put me in a position to criticize the lives of others that I will only cause further harm to myself, and that the internal damage resulting will dilute the positive influence that I seek to offer to the world and God’s people.

As a Christian it pains me deeply when I allow myself to fall into the traps set by my own mind.  I work far too hard to eradicate limiting behaviors from all aspects of my life to allow myself to fall victim to the sinful nature of my mind time and time again.  I don’t expect to be perfect, but I know that I can be better and that I MUST be on a consistent basis if I am ever going to fulfill God’s calling for my life.  If I don’t eliminate my need to play judge, my habit will ultimately serve only to drown me in guilt, anger, and negativity.  And I have bigger ideas for my life than that.

Being a critic is playing small.  And every time that I choose to play small, I not only deprive myself of opportunities for advancement, I also negatively impact the lives of those around me.  Judgment hurts, and when it’s vocalized, it spreads like wildfire.  Have you ever sat with a friend or loved one and made a negative remark about someone?  What generally occurs?  In my experience, the other person is often persuaded to start stirring criticism in their own mind where perhaps nothing existed prior to the initial comment.  And just like that the evil multiplies.  It’s no wonder that our world is so unforgiving. 

Faith tells me that there is only one Judge.  And while I tend to be able to apply that principle to my life in the story that I share, I still fall flat on my face with regularity as I assume the role of assessor in the lives of others.  I often forget that I was once I man who was lost and begging for understanding.  And in my dealings with those around me, I don’t seem to easily recall how challenging it was for me to start confronting my own limitations.  I tend to grow impatient with the hesitancy and limiting habits of others.  But that’s not the way of Christ, and that’s not a road that will lead to the fulfillment of my purpose here on earth.  To be effective on my mission, I must get better…now.

Let’s commit to doing it together.  Remember, criticism is contagious.  Cover your mouth.  Learn to tame your tongue and your mind.  And if you see it as your calling to lift up the lives of others, always do so without offering judgment.  I’ve wasted too many years being a critic, and I understand now just how very much I’ve limited my potential impact among those around me.

“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

May God Bless!