A Matter of Definition
I was on the debate team for a while in college. For tournaments, I donned stern librarian glasses and a corporate suit — odd for a normally frumpish thrift-store girl. I had a debate partner named Helmut. I can’t justifiably make fun of his name because at the time my last name was Gay. We both had name issues.
For a codependent middle-child like me, debate was a thrilling way to argue without hurting anybody’s feelings. I thrived in the regulated conflict and enjoyed my yellow legal pads and boxes of evidence cards. I wasn’t notable at cross-examination. I didn’t have a cut-throat drive to win. My closing arguments rarely won. But I loved the whole experience. Debate was my first script for engagement with head-on disagreement. The regular practice of opposition shaped my voice as a woman.
One key aspect of debate is an agreement of definitions. At the outset, both sides must agree on the resolution terms. Sometimes opposing teams will go back and forth, unwilling to concede that a certain word has a shared meaning. It’s important to clarify the meaning of pivotal words before entering a significant dialogue.
With that in mind, as we enter this series, Choosing to Hear, I’d like to clarify two words. Some of you may or may not agree with my definitions. And that’s ok. Let’s just decide I am describing what I know from my limited experience. As I wade into the spiritual and physical implications of hearing loss, for the sake of clarity let’s make a distinction between the words ‘listen’ and ‘hear’.
Definition — to detect by perceiving sound through the ear
According to Miriam Webster — HEAR, verb \ˈhir\ : to perceive or apprehend by the ear, to be aware of (sound) through the ear
Definition — to hear and pay attention to someone
According to Miriam Webster – LISTEN, verb \ˈli-sən\ : to hear something with thoughtful attention, to pay attention to someone or something in order to hear what is being said, sung, played, etc., to hear what someone has said and understand that it is serious, important, or true
Both words are action words, verbs which indicate response to sound. However, there is nuance between the two. Hearing is the affect of sound in the ears. Listening is the affect of sound in the mind and soul. Used in a Sentence: When I chose to get hearing aids and improve my ability to hear, I still had a long way to go in my journey toward learning to listen. To hear is a mechanical response to vibrations and sound waves. To listen is a posture of mental and emotional attention.
It is possible to hear without listening. It is possible to listen without hearing.
In terms of relationship, the differences matter greatly.
When you think about the difference between hearing and listening, what strikes you?
Please LIKE or SHARE. Thanks!