Recently, I was revisiting some thoughts on listening well and came back across a section of Zack Eswine's wonderful book, Sensing Jesus. Listen below how Eswine distinguishes between two kinds of hearing:
"According to Jesus, there are two kinds of hearing. This is what Jesus means when he says, "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear" (Mark 4:23). Jesus calls us beyond recognizing sounds to obeying or responding or discerning the meaning of the sounds.
To hear with the ear only is to recognize.
To hear with understanding is to discern.
To hear with the ear requires only that one's eardrum work.
To hear so as to understand requires that one's soul remain attentive and receptive to the goings on in another.
To hear with the ear one need only nod the head and shuffle the voice into "mhm" and "uh-huh."
To hear truly, however, one must ready herself to experience the life of another, and from that experience, to understand that other.
To hear with the ear only is to categorize, explain, and move on.
To truly hear is to name the nuance, to understand the meanings, to separate out what is consistent from what is not, and to let what is mysterious or confounding remain for another day.
To hear with the ear only is to quote the Bible.
To hear truly is to bend one's life toward the meaning of the quote in Jesus and by his grace."
--Zack Eswine, Sensing Jesus, p194-195.