As you go about your daily activities, perhaps you meet people whose lives seem tangled and for whom living seems a hard experience. Not in every case, but certainly in many instances, the trouble may be that the people are often caught up in the trap of personal ego; they feel that they know everything already and fail to listen. And it is a truth that if you think you know it all, you are less likely to learn more.
Bill Johnson, well known for his overinflated ego, was constantly reminding his employees, family, and friends of his many accomplishments in life. As president of a successful business, Bill was quick to seize any opportunity to tell his workers how he single-handedly took over a company on the brink of bankruptcy and turned it almost overnight into a profit‑making machine. To his friends, Bill constantly boasted about having the most talented and attractive children in the neighborhood. At home, Bill always had the last word. In fact, Bill was so full of himself that he had a custom wall plaque made to hang over his fireplace that read, “Bill Johnson is God.” After returning from the office one evening, Bill discovered a small note placed below the plaque. It read, “One small step for Bill Johnson; one giant step for atheism!”
Perhaps the idea of humility and of giving life the humble approach could work effectively in many instances. Those taking the humble approach acknowledge that their humility comes from the ultimate realization that the universe and all the creatures within it, both visible and invisible, may be manifestations of infinite creative power. The divine spirit may move in your life and make it over from within so that things are seen in a new light, and love can become the spontaneous expression of a Spirit‑filled soul.
In Sand and Form, Kahlil Gibran wrote, “I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.” Are there some important lessons to learn from reflecting on these words? Sometimes, if we listen to learn, the things that may make us uncomfortable can provide valuable insights. We can recognize what we don’t want as well as what we do want in our life.
Lao Tzu also commented about listening in his writing,
Its name is The Invisible.
We listen to it and do not hear it;
Its name is The Inaudible.
We touch it and do not find it;
Its name is The Subtle (formless).
“Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul.” How clearly the poet saw that one of the great laws of life is growth. No one is exempt from this law, and no one lacks the equipment or the ability to grow. The Bible tells us that man was created and given dominion and authority over the earth, and the requirement for us is to demonstrate that dominion. The real dominion we need to attain is not an outer one at all; it is within ourselves. Building more stately mansions is an inner project, and the spirit within helps us build these mansions. How can we hear the guidance of the whisperings of spirit if we are too busy talking about unessential things to listen?
The art of listening can be an humbling experience. When we open ourselves to another’s point of view, we may discover many new and exciting ways to look at any subject. If we examine a single leaf that has fallen from a giant tree, we can literally discover a number of ways to observe the leaf. The artist or poet may see form, color, and beauty. The biologist may see evidence of the purpose of the leaf to the tree. The atomic physicist may see trillions of atoms amazingly organized. The groundskeeper may see the leaf as littering his garden path. The caterpillar may see food for metamorphosis into a glorious butterfly. The wonders of God’s creation abound—even in a simple leaf!
Our thoughts can turn to the Old Testament prophets who seemed to have such a wonderful rapport and communication with God. Back in the time of Moses, according to the Scriptures, it seemed that God’s voice was clearly audible. From the heights of a mountaintop, God spoke. From the fiery center of a burning bush, God spoke. Through significant dreams, God spoke—and the people listened.
We may not know whether or not God actually spoke to Moses in an audible voice or through an inner voice. In our present time, we do need to listen and hear God through the many ways in which he speaks to us. For instance, we may have heard God speaking through our quiet thoughts, through good books and expressive music, through conversations with other people, through children’s activities, and through the beauty and wonder of nature. And in everything, it seems something worthwhile can be learned.
Often in our ignorance, or nonthinking, we hinder God and stop the current of divine messages. But when we are permeated with a lively faith and sincere desire to learn, messages of love and guidance flow to us and through us like a beautiful river that has found smooth passage through our life‑stream.