Selective Vision and Selective Listening
As a writer and freelance editor, I’ve seen first-hand how easy it is to fall into the trap of selective vision. Some of my editing clients are convinced they don’t need an editor, that is until they receive the edits for typos, missing words, misspellings, and other corrections.
And when I say “first-hand,” I’m including myself in that experience. I can read my own work and miss errors because I know what I meant to write, so that’s what I see.
Selective vision and listening occurs when we see and hear what we want to see and hear. We tune in to information that is important to us or items we agree with. Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon.
Through the centuries before Jesus’s first advent, faithful Jewish people expected the Messiah to arrive as a conquering king. One who would throw off the shackles of empires that kept ancient Israel in bondage, and usher in a golden age reminiscent of Solomon’s reign. They did not associate prophecies of suffering and rejection with the Messiah—passages such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. So when Jesus came, they did not recognize Him.
The problem was that they failed to identify two types of Messianic prophecies: the suffering Servant and the victorious King. They focused solely on the victorious passages because that is what they wanted to be true.
Still, the people who did not tune in to both types of Messianic passages were not much different from you and me today. If we’re honest, we tend to tune in to Bible passages we like and tune out passages we don’t like. We focus on what appeals to us, such as passages that speak of God’s goodness, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. But we would rather zip past passages that describe God’s righteousness and judgment or instruct us in holy living.
We also practice selective vision and listening in our relationships. Husbands and wives can especially relate to the problem of selective listening. One person will communicate information several times, only to have their spouse later ask for that same information. And when called on it, the spouse responds, “Yes, but now I’m listening because I asked for the information.”
Are you and I like that with the Lord? Does our behavior communicate selective listening to His Word? Do we ignore His instructions until we find ourselves in a mess, and then ask for help or direction He has already provided?
Consider these verses as encouragement for us to seek the whole counsel of God’s Word instead of limiting ourselves to selective passages:
- Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
- Proverbs 19:20 – “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”
- Matthew 4:4 – “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
- Luke 8:18 – “Take care then how you hear . . ..”
- Luke 11:28 – “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
- Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
How have you caught yourself responding to God’s Word with selective listening?