Three men entered and sat down at the table next to me. They were excessively loud, so I moved to another table. A one-sided conversation took over the room from a man who "knew everything about everything." It was impossible to tune out. I finally ended up at a table in the far corner of the room.
My intention is not to be judgmental or over-sensitive. I just didn’t need, nor did I want to hear, ALL of that "information" emanating from this self-appointed expert. Actually, I didn’t need or want to hear ANY of it. But this particular fellow seemed to think I (and everyone else in the coffee shop) needed to hear EVERYTHING he had to say.
Although this incident ranks extremely low on any list of First World problems, it does remind me of the importance of surrounding myself with things that are positive and uplift me. I can try to convince myself that what I hear doesn’t affect how I think and feel, but the reality is, it does.
As Jesus said, we need to consider carefully what we hear:
"For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.
"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you — and even more" (Mark 4:22-24).
If I watch or listen too often and too long to the news, with its panel of experts who talk (or yell) over other experts, I find myself becoming frustrated, agitated and anxious. The same negative emotions emerge when I’m in the car listening to talk radio or radio DJs.
It’s usually better for me to listen to my personal playlists or nothing at all. Or when I’m writing and studying, I usually listen to quiet, relaxing music. Total silence is sometimes too quiet, and other types of music make it difficult for me to focus. Plus, when I need to look up from my computer and gaze off into the distance, the softer music provides a soothing soundtrack for my thoughts.
What I learned from my experience at Starbucks was that when I allow other voices to talk over God’s voice, it’s easy for me to become dissatisfied, downcast, and discouraged. That is when I know I need to get back to the Word and let God remind me of how He feels about me.
An overexposure to conversations or messages that are harsh, negative, and judgmental tends to make me react with harshness, negativity, and judgment. On the flip side, when I hear and engage in conversations that are positive and life-affirming, I feel inspired, encouraged and have a more pleasant attitude.
Obviously, there are times when we have no option but to hear things we’d prefer not to. In a restaurant, for instance, we may have to focus our attention on something else so we won’t hear the conversation going on next to us. Or when we’re traveling with a co-worker, there may be no escape from hearing them rant about a colleague or boss.
These situations can be uncomfortable and frustrating. We need to be intentional and do what’s best for us: move to another table, read a book, open our Bible app, or listen to relaxing music.
Jesus regularly retreated from the demands of the crowd to be alone and listen to His Father. He chose solitude over the constant barrage of voices from his followers expressing their needs and demanding His time. He withdrew to be away from the religious leaders throwing out false accusations. He even went to solitary places to be away from His disciples’ attempts to redirect His mission. He used these quiet times and solitary places as a time to refresh, restore, and refuel His soul.
So, maybe it’s time to consider more carefully what we’re hearing. We owe this to ourselves and should not feel guilty for seeking out a situation that will better serve us.
Being discerning about what we hear is vital to our mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. We need to distinguish between lies and truth, redirect the conversation, or get away from the noise of life, and find a quiet place to rest so we can redirect our attention to what the Lord has to say.
I promise that conversation with the Lord will leave you inspired and encouraged with a more pleasant attitude.
As Paul wrote the Philippians:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8—9).