What We Have Here…


I’m sure you can finish the rest of the title, possibly one of the most quoted movie lines in American culture. (If you can’t, do yourself a favor and go watch Cool Hand Luke).


We live in a time of unprecedented (and in my opinion, overwhelming) opportunities for communication thanks to technology. And, we’re failing. It’s nothing new. We’ve been failing at communication as a human race for as long as we’ve been a human race. But, that just might be my opinion, too.

I recently returned from a long and wonderful vacation. My family visited my in-laws in the Netherlands. It’s something we like to do often, but don’t get to do often enough. Unlike all the jokes and stories about relationships between in-laws, I actually like mine. Quite a lot. My point is, though, there is a bit of a language barrier. The fault lays on my shoulders. I’m lazy. Extremely lazy. I become caught in the day-to-day and don’t stop long enough to learn my wife’s native language. Did I mention we’ve been together for over 16 years now? Failure is not a strong enough word.

Thankfully, I have picked up on the language a bit. I can understand it better than I can speak it (not well enough, but enough to be dangerous). This means I do a lot of listening when I’m around my wife’s family. Hard, active listening to help me pick up on words I know and decipher what is being communicated to me. I don’t always succeed, but it does help most of the time. (Note: They can speak my language to a high degree, and are gracious with me).

Herein lies the rub with communication (the point I want to make):

Technology has made it far easier for us to do a lot of talking to each other, but it hasn’t done anything to help us listen better. Why? Because listening is a learned skill. And, few of us are bothering to learn it. I’m still a novice myself.

Look around you. The proof is everywhere, especially if you pay attention to the news. No one is bothering to listen to each other. Or, more specifically, certain groups of people are exploding in rage because they aren’t bothering to listen to the other side when they say something isn’t right.

How many wars have been fought because of a lot of talking and very little listening? How many families have been torn apart? How many lives destroyed physically, emotionally, mentally? How much terror rendered?

All because we forget one part of the communication formula. The biggest part.

We bleat like sheep and try to be louder than the other person, but have no idea what they’re bleating.

When I would teach children in any capacity, many times I would tell them “God gave you one mouth and two ears for a reason.”

Where do we go from here? Are we past the point where listening would do any good? I don’t believe so. I believe that there is always hope. Hope that we can stop our shouting. Hope that we can sit down together, and listen. Hope that if we do so, a lot of the anger and fear would disappear.

But, that might just be my opinion, too.


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14 thoughts on “What We Have Here…”

    1. I did keep it general, because there are too many current and past examples that are raging through my brain right now. I wanted to rage about some current specifics, but I thought it would be an injustice to so many other important issues. Might not have been the right approach. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You’re right, Russell, and it’s discouraging. On the lighter side, I’m glad you had a wonderful vacation. My mom is Dutch and my brothers and I never thoroughly learned the language, but we understood a lot more than we spoke. Occasionally my mom would forget and we’d catch her saying something that she wished we hadn’t heard. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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