I spent some quality time with TELSTRA this past week, both over the phone and in store, as we tried to sort out an issue with our Macksville school phone number. One of the joys of my role is that there are times when only I can authorise actions with some external providers: TELSTRA being case in point. So, after a few false starts, I ended up in store last Friday afternoon at 3pm for a meeting with the local Business Consultant: 45mins later I left with the matter unresolved, but at least a plan in place and a start made. 

While I was waiting for my allotted appointment time I overheard an interaction behind me, as two other customers sat waiting for their time slot: a man in his mid to late 70’s and a younger guy in his early 30’s. Their chat was a general and simple chit-chat, until the topic of dogs emerged: at which point I entered the ‘Twilight Zone’. 

The interaction went a bit like this:

Older man:            What sort of dog do you have?
Younger man:        American Staffordshire Terrier

Older man:            How old is it?
Younger man:       7

Older man:            Did you get it as a puppy?
Younger man:       Yes

Older man:            How long have you had it then?
Younger man:       7 years

Older man:            Oh, what colour is it?
Younger man:        Brindle

Older man:            So what age is it now then?
Younger man:        7!

And I kid you not, the conversation continued on for a few more minutes, with a repeated focus back on the dog’s age. At one point I nearly turned around and wanted to explain beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the dog was in fact, aged 7!

It did get me thinking though, about the difference between hearing and listening. Between knowing about something versus actually knowing something.


I know about hair cutting, but have never cut hair. (Good news all round)

I know about baking a cake, but have never baked in my life. (Eaten too many though)

I know about songwriting but have never written a song. (Lucky for you)

I know how to change a tyre, replace an inner tube and mend a puncture. Many times.

I know how to milk cows, bale hay and dehorn cattle. Many times.

I know how to paint a watercolour landscape, ‘throw’ a ceramic bowl on a potter’s wheel and make a ‘lino’ cut print. Again, many times. (Exciting times when teaching Lino printing in Yr 7 art – many bandaids needed!)

I don’t simply know about those things, I know these things at a deep level.

In the gospel of Mark, there is a single verse, Mark 8:21, where Jesus says to the Disciples “And still you don’t understand?”

This line gives me hope.

The Disciples, post feeding a crowd of thousands, despite spending time with Jesus, despite witnessing first-hand His miracles, despite being present for His explicit teachings… they still missed the point, missed the learnings, missed the Message: they still did not understand. They were imperfect students; like me. 

I, like us all, hear at times, but do not truly listen. 

Hearing happens without us thinking, without us needing to tell our brain to ‘engage hearing’: we just do it.

Which means that we can dismiss it as an auto response, something that just is and as a result, we don’t end up not giving the action the intentionality and focus that we should. Hearing, though, is only the beginning, because hearing on its own is not enough, we need to also listen, listen with the intent to understand: in our homes, in our workplaces, in our churches – everywhere.

We need to park assumption and bias. We need to pause self-interest and ego. We need to prioritise the 2:1 ratio of 2 ears vs 1 mouth and ensure that we speak less than we listen. In doing so we instantly create space for learning, for consideration and for understanding. If we spend less time planning out our answers before the question is posed, the circumstances explained or the situation being revealed, we give space for the miracles that are unity, understanding and growth to emerge.

So here is my challenge to you, as much as it is to me. 

Listen in order to know. Listen in order to grow. And, Listen in order to show


This word of encouragement for Christian educators was written by Dean Bennetts, and distributed in The Bridge newsletter in 2023. Dean is the CEO of Adventist Education in North New South Wales, Australia.