Listening between the lines is an art form. You can practice but the nuances of being good is, in my opinion, as much related to one’s level of compassion and empathy as it is to being a skill. Even those good in one language and culture rarely are in another. There is something about the personal connection, understanding of the setting in which the remarks are being made, and being open to whatever might be said which come together in a magical, mysterious way so that words are far more than the sum of the parts.
The proof statement on the level of difficulty is highlighted by the experience many continue to have with call centers located in a different culture. It isn’t enough to know English; to serve a native speaker you need to understand the culture, setting, and nuances of what is being said between the lines! Without this understanding and ability to hear, two results are likely to emerge. First, the caller will be increasingly frustrated. Second, the service representative will find the frustration confusing, baffling, and often strange. I can hear their thoughts! “This isn’t in the script.” “What did I do to cause this type of reaction?” “Did I say something wrong?”
In contrast I listen to stories where people hear the cry between the lines. Sometimes his or her ability to listen between the lines catches me totally off guard. Nothing prepared me for the shift. Even in stories of old, with no indication, the writer noted the action which said one person was listening between the lines. “After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, ‘The Teacher is here and is asking for you.’” (John 11.28)
The simple words of action cause me to pause and wonder. Am I listening between the lines to the words of hope, love, and mercy Divinity is sharing with me today? Do I know how much God loves me? Am I willing to be hugged? Today is our opportunity to experience all this and more.
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