Ear of the Heart

March 27 2023 | by

Dear Mr. Pfister, I must confess I struggle to listen to my husband. I often hear the words he is saying, but it’s as if they do not register in my brain. At times I find myself, instead of listening, thinking about past hurts and wounds, what needs to be done that day, or other random thoughts or concerns. I tell him I’m listening, which in general I am, but I really don’t feel as if I am in a deep way because I’m so easily distracted. I want to listen to him more effectively and make him feel heard, loved, and respected. How can I show my husband I care by my actions and not just by my words?


Listening is one of those forgotten arts in our world today. We are seemingly dividing our attention between a multitude of things throughout the day, all day, day after day. With the advent of technology constantly at our fingertips it’s even easier to fall into a constant wake of alternating distraction and attention. Our ability to connect with others is also hindered by this constant intake of information and appetitive attraction.

While listening is a lost art, it’s not an indiscoverable art, even in today’s hurried society. There are a couple foundational skills that can assist us in connecting in a more purposeful manner, allowing us to be present for others, whether that be our spouse or a stranger on the street.

The first foundational skill is the absence of eye contact in present day communication. While this is undoubtedly influenced by the vast amount of communication that takes place through text message, phone calls, or video chats, as opposed to face-to-face, even the in-person communication that does take place has devolved to one of looking at our phones or whatever else that covets our attention at the time. When your husband is speaking to you, make a concerted efforted to look him in the eye and put down or away anything else that is vying for your attention.

The second foundational skill is a synthesizing of what we hear the other conveying to us in our conversation. We should be focusing on the words of the other person in order to be able to repeat back to them their communicated words in a way that shows fullness in comprehension without parroting, which is the repeating back to the person their message in the same words they used to express it to us in the first place. Paying attention in such a focused, deliberate way in itself limits distraction and the tendency of our minds to wander.

The third foundational skill is a recognition of the importance of the human person in front of us who is speaking to us, especially when this person is the spouse Almighty God has blessed us with. This is in opposition to whatever the ‘thing’ is that is distracting us, as this in itself has no particular value in the light of eternity, but the individual in front of us is made in the image and likeness of Almighty God Himself and is destined for the Beatific Vision by God’s grace and their cooperation. The created thing, whether it be a phone, television, or anything else cannot boast of this or any other particular perfection.

Whether we’re focusing on eye contact, summarizing, or focusing on the person themselves, our goal is to love the person in front of us for the sake of God. Therefore, we desire to treat them and act towards them as such. As Saint Benedict implored us, “Listen with the ear of your heart.”


Updated on March 28 2023