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The Art of Listening

Listening CartoonLast week, I returned a client file to one of my employees, with instructions on what she needed to do to correct some mistakes she made on a legal document. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call her “Jane.”

Jane had failed to follow some guidelines that I laid out for her when I trained her. Despite the fact that I had reminded her on at least three separate occasions how I wanted things done, she still got it wrong.

Two of the things I like about Jane are that she is very smart and she is a quick learner. There is no doubt in my mind that she understood the specific guidelines concerning the work we do on our client files. She also understood that she was not allowed to deviate from those guidelines unless she checked with me first.

When I returned the file to Jane and told her what corrections I needed, I said, “I’m just reminding you of what needs to be done on these files.”

She immediately replied, “I’m sure you’ll always find things that are wrong with my work. I’m getting used to you coming to me with corrections.” I don’t think Jane realized that she was being disrespectful when she made her comments. I could tell by the tone and the inflection of her voice that she was trying to be funny while still getting her point across.

In response to her statement, I said, “If you’ll allow me to train you and form you into the type of person you need to be, you will eventually come close to being perfect. The key word here is ‘allow.’”

Jane smiled and said, “Okay, I’ll look forward to that.”

As I was walking back to my office, it occurred to me that if I “allowed” God to form me into the person He wants me to be, I would eventually come close to being perfect.

I recently realized that it has taken me more than 10 years to become fully aware of and modify a specific attitude and behavior that has been harming my ability to get certain things accomplished and to significantly move forward in my personal and business life. This realization has been an extremely frustrating experience for me.

I’m going to turn 58 this month, and I’m angry with myself for failing to “listen” to what God was trying to tell me through other people and situations over the past 10 years. If I had listened and followed through, I would have been able to accomplish a lot more during those years.

One of the most frustrating things about growing older is knowing that if I had done a better job of “listening” to what God was trying to tell me throughout my lifetime, I would be in a much better position today in all areas of my life — spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, and financial.

We fail to listen to God because of our pride. We think we know better than He does — and everyone else. Because of our pride, most of the time we don’t even hear what He’s trying to tell us.

With pride comes defiance. The more pride a person has, the more defiant he or she becomes.

Before his fall from grace, it was Lucifer’s pride that caused him to defiantly declare to Almighty God, “I will not serve!”

Jane has the same problem that I have. She thinks she “knows better” and therefore believes that her way of doing things is better than mine. It doesn’t matter to her that I’ve been running my own law firm for more than 32 years. She honestly believes that she should be able to deviate from my guidelines whenever she concludes that it’s reasonable to do so.

Whenever I correct Jane, I do my best not to get angry or too forceful. When possible, I try to use humor to get my point across. I do push her a lot — the same way that the handful of superstar teachers and coaches who I had earlier in my life pushed me. Those teachers and coaches always forced me to live up to their higher standards. They refused to allow me to settle for my own mediocre, self-imposed standards.

Do you know why God allows us to struggle and suffer? One reason is because He is pushing us to humble ourselves and listen to Him. He wants us to live up to His standards, rather than our own mediocre, self-imposed standards.

If you and I are ever going to live up to the higher standards that God has set for us, we will need to learn to listen and accept what He tells us through other grace-filled individuals and through the situations He allows us to go through.

The primary barriers to our ability to listen to what God has to say to us are our pride and our defiance. The best antidotes to pride and defiance are prayer — specifically the daily recitation of the Rosary and the Litany of Humility — and the frequent reception of the sacraments.

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One Response to “The Art of Listening”

  1. SISTER ROBERTA HOULIHAN, CSJ Says:

    DEAR HARRY AND GEORGETTE – HARRY, I ADMIRE YOUR PATIENCE WITH “JANE”. IF SHE WORKED FOR ME, SHE’S BE LOOKING FOR A NEW JOB AFTER THE THIRD CORRECTION ATTEMPT I MADE! TO ME, SHE SEEMS TO BE DELIBERATELY IMPUDENT, AND THEREFORE, SHE DOESN’T DESERVE YOUR PATIENCE! WHILE I HAVE YOU “ON LINE”: WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I BEGIN MY DIRECTED RETREAT THIS EVENING, MAY 3, AND CLOSE IT WITH MASS ON SUNDAY THE 10TH. I’LL BE PRAYING FOR ALL OF MY DEAR FRIENDS, AND THEREFORE, FOR BOTH OF YOU AND YOUR FAMILY! BLESSINGS AND LOVE, Sister Roberta

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