Proverbs 12:22: “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”
Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Pure. Free from impurities. Impurities pollute what is true and genuine and good. And what pollutes a true, genuine, good relationship with the Lord (and pollutes even our own lives) are deceptions and lies. Hiding the truth or hiding from the truth. Deliberately living a lie or unconsciously agreeing with one. These keep us from being able to really see, know, and experience God. Because lies are from Satan. But if we will live honestly before God, in truth, we will know Him (and ourselves) as were meant to. And the truth shall set us free!
This – honesty - is something we need to be committed to our whole spiritual journey. Our whole lives, really. Honesty is half the battle, because living a life of lies prevents any growth and keeps our hearts closed off from God. And I’m not even necessarily talking here about deliberate lies. We know when we’re deliberately lying to others, ourselves, and God. And we won’t fess up to those until we want to. But what I’m mostly concerned with here are the lies we don’t even realize we are living or agreeing with - lies we believe about ourselves or God, or things we refuse to admit or believe. And we might not even know they are there (or we do but refuse to admit it), but they’ll continue to hurt us, from the inside out.
Unfortunately, we can go on like this for quite some time, believing that we’re fine, that nothing’s wrong, while our souls suffocate. And it’s only when we get tired of living lies, when we see the messes we’ve made of our lives, that we’ll finally be willing for God to expose the truth and to make things right. It takes a willingness to say, “Okay, God, show me the true condition of my heart, my soul.” And this might be terrifying! Because once we see it, we can’t unsee it. We can’t ignore it any longer. It has to be dealt with. And we may have to face the consequences that the lies have produced over the years, and it might be heart-breaking. But genuine healing is impossible apart from humble honesty. Truth!
And since God can see all truth and knows us better than we know ourselves, this has to be done with complete reliance on Him. We have to commit to seeking His help, to listening to what He says, to facing whatever He reveals, and to obeying whatever He asks us to do. And so this “step” involves asking God for His help in learning to be honest with ourselves and with Him. It takes thoughtful introspection, time in the Word, and lots of prayer.
But before we get down to doing that, it may help to explore some of the ways that we hide from or run from the truth, such as denial, keeping too busy, smiling through it, obtaining lots of relationships or possessions, focusing on cleaning up our outsides instead of our insides, throwing ourselves deeper into sin, substance abuse or other addictions, etc. It’s important to know our “mode of truth-avoidance” so that we can be aware of when we’re doing it. Below are other ways we hide/run from the truth, instead of facing it. Do any feel familiar to you?
1. When your conscience (the Holy Spirit) convicts/warns you about something (usually just a tiny feeling in your gut or mind), you excuse it, rationalize it, or ignore it. (Or maybe you’ve built your life around it, incorporating all sorts of tricks, techniques, and mental games to avoid what you know is true.) Don’t ignore the Holy Spirit’s warnings. If something pops up in your heart or mind (it could be a brief flash or a deep, gnawing feeling), ask God what it means. Spend some time in His Word and in prayer, letting the Holy Spirit open your eyes to truth. If we ignore the Holy Spirit’s warnings, we’ll grow more numb to Him and more entrenched in our lies, sins, and rebellion.
2. You fill your day with busyness from beginning to end, refusing to slow down enough to spend time in quiet or time alone. (Being alone regularly with drugs or alcohol doesn’t count as quality “alone time.” In fact, it means you need serious help.) You may be hiding something from yourself or running from your past, your sins, your flaws, your fears, God, His Truth, etc., afraid to slow down because you might see how far off-track you’ve gotten. But God pursues, and you feel convicted, and you don’t want to feel convicted, and so you keep busy, cramming in as many distractions as you can. Because if you didn’t, you might hear Him. If this feels familiar, ask God for wisdom and insight, and listen for His answer.
3. You get angry or defensive when others allude to character flaws or particular events in your life. You defend yourself against them, rationalize them, or turn the focus back on the other person. Anything to not have to seriously look at your own flaws or fears or wounds. Or maybe you lash out over seemingly small things, yet you don’t know why. When we know we have a problem area, we protect it, and the last thing we want is someone else to notice it or point it out. Or maybe the problem areas we see and despise in other people are the very things we’re guilty of, and we need to admit that we do the very things we hate others for doing. If you notice that you get angry or defensive easily (or if others point it out to you), confess it. Consider if the things you consistently complain about or dislike in others reflect your own flaws or sins. And then ask God to help you figure out what’s causing it and how to overcome it.
4. You are highly critical of yourself or get angry at yourself easily, but not about what you should be bothered by. Sometimes we take our guilty, shameful feelings out on ourselves in various ways (punishing ourselves) instead of dealing with the real root of the problem. We distract ourselves from the things we should be addressing by focusing on something minor or unrelated. That way, we can feel good about dealing with some flaws/sins, while we are really hiding or ignoring the ones that really matter, that really need to be dealt with. If we won’t address the things we hide/ignore/run from, we’ll always be in bondage to them. Spend time in prayer, asking God to examine your heart, to reveal truth to you, and to give you the strength and wisdom to deal with it. Confess any sins you need to confess. Admit to and ask healing for any heart-wounds you have. By facing and dealing with these things, we become free to let God’s love and forgiveness heal us and to live the kind of abundant life He wants us to have.
5. You deny or ignore your problems and put on a happy, strong face. Being optimistic is a good thing, but not when it’s used to hide the truth from yourself, others, or God. Many people smile while they’re dying inside. And God doesn’t want us to live this way. If this is your mode, talk with the Lord about why you do this, what you’re hiding or hiding from.
I used to do something like this when it came to my relationship with God. I’d act like I could handle whatever bad/hard thing came my way and that I could do it with a smile, never letting Him know how terrified, upset, or heartbroken I felt inside. I’d be like, “That’s okay, God. I’m strong enough to handle it. I’m okay.” Even when I wasn’t. I thought that’s the way a “good Christian” was supposed to be. Never upset. Never weak. Never scared. Always doing the right thing with the right attitude and right words. Always pleasing to God. Aren’t we supposed to take whatever God dishes out, bravely shoulder our crosses, with a smile? Right?
Of course, it’s important to trust God, to shoulder our crosses. But genuine trust in God and genuine acceptance of our crosses can’t come until after we’ve been honest with all the real thoughts and feelings inside of us, even all the ugly, unpleasant ones. (Just read the Psalms if you want to see true honesty, especially from David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, even though he confessed to some of the ugliest, darkest thoughts and feelings.)
If we try to hide those from God - even in the name of being a “good Christian” (trying to ... what? … spare God’s feelings? Impress Him? Earn something from Him?) - then we’re being less than honest with Him. And dishonesty closes off part of our hearts to Him, preventing us from letting His comfort and love fill us and heal us, especially the weak and hurting parts. We need to live genuinely, truthfully, humbly before God, even with (especially with) the ugly stuff, if we want to experience the true healing, love, and forgiveness He offers.
6. You’ve settled into depression and have no peace or joy. Maybe things were going good but then life threw you a curveball and you’re having a hard time adjusting. Maybe you’ve been lazy in your spiritual disciplines, ignoring God, living like He isn’t real. Or maybe you’ve opened the door to Satan at some time, or quenched the Holy Spirit somewhere along the way, rebelled against Him, resisted Him, and you’ve been handed over to the consequences of your decisions. Maybe you’ve agreed with a lie somewhere along the way, such as “I’m so stupid” or “No one could love me, not even God” or “I’m unforgivable,” and now you’re living the lies you’ve adopted. Maybe you’ve stuffed your pain for too long, and it’s time to deal with it. Maybe life (God) isn’t meeting your expectations, and you can’t accept it. Maybe it’s an excuse to shut down or be irresponsible. (Maybe it’s hormonal, and you need to see the doctor.) Maybe depression is preferable to admitting your sins, weaknesses or fears. Maybe it’s “safer” than risking being honest with God, yourself, and others. Maybe it’s more “comfortable” than trying to change your life. Pray and ask God to search your heart, to reveal whatever’s keeping you in bondage, whatever’s blocking His peace and joy from filling your heart. (And ask for His forgiveness, help, and wisdom, whenever needed.)
7. You avoid reading your Bible or praying. Maybe God feels far away. It may be that you don’t want to get too close to Him because you don’t want to hear what He will tell you. You don’t want to know the truth, to change. God will let us drift as far away from Him as we want to (and He’ll let us face the consequences of it). But when you get tired of living that way, of the messes you’ve made, of trying to do it all on your own, ask Him to search your heart and to reveal anything you need to deal with. And ask Him what He wants you to do about it.
8. Or maybe you do read your Bible and pray all the time, religiously, but you just do it out of habit, without thought or feeling, without investing your heart in it or really absorbing it. Maybe you do a lot for God, instead of spending time with God. Why?
9. Maybe you buy lots of things or try lots of things or have to be “perfect,” putting your identity in your possessions or accomplishments or image. Are you running from something, trying to fill a hole or meet a need? Is it working?
10. Maybe you fill in the blank with how you avoid the truth. (You know what it is!)
These may be indications that you’re not facing something the Holy Spirit wants you to face, that you’re living with distance from God and His Truth. And you need to take time with the Bible and the Holy Spirit to figure out what the truth is. Honesty with yourself and God is absolutely necessary for humility, for drawing near to Him. He does not share space with lies!
And He won’t settle for only part of your heart. He wants “the whole you.” That’s what Jesus died for, after all. To save, heal, and redeem the whole you, especially the messy parts. Do not block His love, His healing, His truth. Do not push away the One who loved you enough to die for you, who died to be close to you. He is the only way to true healing, to eternal life!
This piece of the journey may be the hardest one to face because it means letting the Spirit examine our hearts to bring up all the things we didn’t want to see in the first place.
Maybe you don’t realize this but God can handle it. He’s big enough, strong enough, confident enough to handle all our unpleasant thoughts, feelings, weaknesses, and sins. He knows it all anyway; He’s just been waiting for us to be honest. He wants to help us, but He waits until we want Him, until we ask Him, until we get real with Him. So tell Him how you really feel about yourself, about Him, about life. Tell Him what you’re ashamed of, afraid of, what you need help with, what hurts. Tell Him what you’re really thinking and feeling. This is, after all, the heart of prayer, running to God about everything, openly, honestly, hiding nothing, knowing that He is a good, loving, merciful, gracious God who can handle it.
And just know that He will accept you and love you no matter what. He already does, as you are right now. Jesus came and died for you, for your sins, before you ever even thought of fixing your life, making things right, or growing closer to Him. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He loved you and died for you when you were at your worst. And if He loved you at your worst, you can trust that He will love you no matter what. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1). As soon as you start being honest with Him, your heart will become softer and more open to Him and His healing love. And you won’t feel like you have to maintain your exhausting, self-protective lies any longer. What a relief! “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
After figuring out our “truth-avoidance modes,” it’s a good idea to understand what caused us to be the way we are. This means digging into our pasts and our families-of-origin. Warning: This may be too hard for some people to do, if you have a really painful, messy past. And if this is the case, I recommend finding a good Christian counselor, pastor, or a wise Christian friend. Because our fears and doubts and heart-wounds won’t just go away if they’re ignored. They’ll persist as long as you let them, interfering in your relationships with others, yourself, and the Lord, poisoning your future. If you have a prayer partner or close friend, spend some time discussing with them your past and how it formed you. (Or just talk it over with God. He understands better than anyone. Journal it too.) The Questions for Reflection will help you explore this. Take your time with them. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to see the Truth. Only the Truth can destroy the lies and heal our souls!
Tell God that you want to see the truth and know what’s really in your heart. These Bible verses are excellent prayers for this (meditate on them, pray them out loud):
Psalm 25:4-5: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”
Psalm 26:2-3: “Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.”
Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
And from Psalm 86: “Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy... Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call on you. Hear my prayer, O Lord: listen to my cry for mercy... Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”
After telling God of your desire to be searched, to be real with Him, spend time listening to Him. Jot down anything He reveals. This won’t be easy or pain-free, but it’s crucial. And always remember that He is there with you as you go through this, walking through the pain with you, holding you while you cry, wrapping His arms around you, even if you can’t feel it, and picking you up and carrying you when you’re too weak to stand.
If you find yourself taking a deep breath right now, it may be because you know you’re not gonna like what He’s gonna reveal. But the sooner you allow God to reveal it, the better. And the sooner He can heal it and help you turn it around for your good, His glory, and His purposes. Do not hide from His Truth. If you do so, you choose to live with distance from Him and to face discipline and possibly to being handed over to the hardness of your heart, which is far worse than being searched, humbled, and pruned.
Example Prayer (besides the above verses):
Dear Heavenly Father,
I’m tired of living a self-protective, phony, half-hearted life. I’m tired of running from my past, from my pain and fears, from You. I want to live a life of freedom in You. Help me to see all the lies I live with, all the things I need to admit, address, or deal with, in order to have the best relationship with You possible. Give me the strength to face them. Help me replace them with Your love and Your truth. Help me pour out to You what’s really in my heart and mind, because I don’t want any walls up between us anymore. As I open up more of my heart, I know that it will hurt, so be my comfort, Lord. Heal my hurts, give me Your peace and joy. And always remind me of Your gracious forgiveness and unconditional love. I desperately need them. I cling to them. I cling to You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen
Questions for Reflection:
(Take your time, be thorough. Pray about these, listen for God’s answers, and journal them.)
1. Did anything in this section stand out to me? Why?
2. How would I describe myself? How do I think others see me?
3. How would I describe my relationships with others? How do I typically interact with other people? In negative or positive ways? How did I get to be this way?
4. What were my earliest significant relationships like? How was I treated? What are the relationship patterns/models I observed or experienced as I grew up? How did my family and my parents relate to each other? What did I learn from these? How did they affect me?
5. How would I describe my “real self”? (Maybe start with “Deep down, I am ...” Be as thorough as possible, including as many answers as necessary.) In what ways does this conflict, if at all, with my answer to #2?
6. What do I feel/think about my “real self”? (Maybe start with “When I think about the real me, I …”) What do I think God feels/thinks about me? Why?
7. Am I honest with others? Do I let them get to know the “real me,” even my closest friends? If not, why? What am I afraid of? What kinds of things do I keep hidden or am I dishonest about? How would it affect my life if I were more honest with others?
8. In what ways have I tried to change before, to improve myself? What were the outcomes? How did it affect me? What did I learn from it?
9. How would I like to be, as a person? Is there anything I can reasonably do to become the person I want to be? Or if my expectations are unreasonable or unfair to myself, what do I need to accept about myself and how can I learn to do that? And what reasonable expectations/goals can I put in place of the unreasonable ones?
10. To me, what does it mean to be “a good Christian”? In what ways is this view healthy and good, and in what ways is it unhealthy and harmful?
11. (For those who constantly struggle to be a “good Christian,” who try to do everything just right …) How do my attempts to be a “good Christian” affect/interfere with my relationship with others, with the Lord? How does it affect how I see myself? Is there anything I should change about my attempts to be the “good Christian” I think I’m “supposed to be”? What does God really expect from me, biblically, and how is it different from how I think I “should be”?
12. Am I afraid to be honest with the Lord? Why? What do I fear will happen if I’m honest with Him, if I let Him see the “real me”? How would it affect my life if I were more honest with myself and the Lord, warts and all? Do I want those changes? (Tell all of this to the Lord. He knows it already.)
13. What are some ways, in general, that I run from truth, hide the truth, or run from the Holy Spirit? Am I currently running from any particular truth, hiding a truth, or running from the Holy Spirit for any reason? What am I hiding or running from? What do I refuse to admit? What am I lying to myself and God about? Why? (Be honest with Him. Admit this to Him. Ask for forgiveness.)
14. Are there any lies or self-defeating beliefs I have agreed with or adopted along the way?
(These are usually the initial thoughts we think when things go wrong or we’re afraid or mad at ourselves or feel anxiety. Things like, “I’m such a loser,” “This kind of stuff always happens to me,” “Everyone hates me,” “God doesn’t care,” and other things like that. Spend some time thinking about what self-defeating thoughts commonly go through your head throughout the day, or notice them when they do pop into your head and write them down.)
15. How have these thoughts molded or affected my life? When did they start, or what in my past started them? In what ways do I perpetuate them (usually inadvertently), making them more “true” and more entrenched in my life and heart?
16. Have I ever ignored or resisted the Holy Spirit at some point or went my own way when I knew I shouldn’t? If so, when? What happened as a result? Is there anything I can do to make it right or make amends, as much as possible?
17. What or who do I blame for the problems in my life, for “who I am”? How might I actually be responsible for the messes in my life?
[In order to start living a life of honesty, we need to start being honest with ourselves about who is really responsible for the current condition of our lives. This is especially important if we’re living a life of bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, irresponsibility, or staleness and laziness. We usually have a myriad of people, events, or circumstances we blame for “the way we are.” And, yes, a lot of this blame might be justified. But we’re not going to get anywhere in life or in our relationship with God if we sit in the “victim seat” all day, pointing fingers at everyone else. While we can’t change what’s been done to us, we are responsible for whether or not we continue to carry it around, letting it control us, defeat us. We’re responsible for our reactions to the unfair things that have happened to us and for our attitudes towards the people who have wronged us. God knows what happened to us. And He has the right to (and He will) avenge all wrongs, because any sin committed against anyone is ultimately a sin against Him. And He’s promised to work all things out for good in our lives, if we love Him. But if we won’t give the “right to avenge” over to God, we will continue to carry around self-defeating bitterness, making a mess of our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical lives.
But once we become honest with ourselves and God, once we admit that we are mostly responsible for the current condition of our lives (either by our actions/sins, by wallowing in the results of someone else’s actions/sins, or by refusing to hand our hurts over to God, to seek His help getting past it), we can finally start to heal. And God will be free to create something beautiful with our lives, messes and all.]
18. Is there any wrong I need to make right in my relationship with others? Any consequence of my own doing I need to face up to? Anyone I need to seek forgiveness from (if it’s appropriate to bring it up with them and won’t hurt them more)? (Do it! Don’t just think about it, but make the wrong right, admit the mistakes you’ve made, take responsibility.)
19. Is there anything I need to confess or admit to God right now? Sins? Fears? Doubts? Lies I’ve lived and believed? Judgments I’ve made about Him, others, or myself that are wrong? What does the Bible say about the things I think or struggle with? What is the biblical truth?
20. Biblically, what is God’s love and forgiveness like? His grace and mercy? (Pray for His help in understanding the truth. Search the Word.) How do we sometimes misunderstand these things? (Such as, true love is not about using others for our happiness but about doing what’s best for the other person, and forgiveness is not excusing/forgetting what people did to us but it’s letting go of the right to hold it against them.) Can I (will I) accept God’s free, un-earnable, already-available forgiveness, love, grace, and mercy? If not, what blocks me from doing that? How can I extend these things to others, sharing it with them? (Pray for His help in doing this.)
21. Is there any bitterness I’m holding onto or any person I need to forgive? (Forgiveness is an act of the will, something we can do even if we don’t “feel like it.” Because it’s not based on our emotions; it’s an action. A choice.) Since Jesus paid for all sins on the cross - all of our sins and all the sins of those who wronged us - do we have a right to hold the sins of others against them? How should we be treating them instead? Do they need to ask forgiveness from us for us to forgive them? And if Jesus paid fully for our sins and if we’ve confessed them and sought His forgiveness, should we live in shame and guilt for our sins? How should we be living? (Ask God to help you forgive those you need to forgive. Tell Him you forgive them anyway, even if you don’t feel like it. And ask Him to help you embrace the forgiveness and love you need too.)
22. What have I learned about myself and about God after working through these questions? And what changes do I want to make in my life?
1. Find verses about honesty and truth, verses like these (and the other ones from this section):
Psalm 15:1-2, 40:11, 43:3, 51:6, 66:18: “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart.… Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me…. Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell…. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place…. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened [to my prayers].”
Jeremiah 5:1-3: “’Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. Although they say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ still they are swearing falsely.’ O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent.”
Hebrews 10:22: “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
2. Now look again at Psalm 15:12: “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart.”
Then read Psalm 91 to see the benefits of “dwelling” with the Lord: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling - even the Lord, who is my refuge - then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lions and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 'Because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.'"
Honesty, truth, and righteousness are main components of being able to dwell with the Lord and, therefore, of receiving the benefits of dwelling with the Lord. According to Psalm 91, what are some of those benefits? What might they look like in real life? What, then, would life be like if we chose to live in dishonesty, lies, and unrighteousness? What would our spiritual lives be like? In your own life, what examples do you see of the consequences of living in dishonesty, lies, unrighteousness? If you began living in honesty, truth, and righteousness, how might God bless you and what changes might happen? Do you want those blessings and changes, enough to be honest, to seek truth and righteousness? If so, what (specifically) is God telling you to do to make things right, to get back on track with Him, to be able to dwell with the Lord and obtain the blessings of it? (Take time praying about this and journaling it.)
Talk all of this over with the Lord. Confess sins and spiritual laziness and times when you’ve relied on yourself instead of on Him. Thank Him for His forgiveness, care, love, and faithfulness. Tell Him what you need help with, the changes you want Him to make in your life. Ask His help in fixing it, healing it, and turning it around for good.
3. Think of the messages God has been giving you recently (the answers to the questions you’ve been asking Him) and then find verses from the Bible to back it up. (Ask Him to lead you to the right verses.) God’s Word should always be our ultimate guide and foundation.
4. Also find Bible verses on grace, forgiveness, and God’s love. Meditate on them for awhile.
5. What is God telling you, personally, through all these verses (write it down)? What does He want you to do in response to the things He’s teaching you? (Write it down, and then do it!)
(Click here for Piece 3: Learning to Listen and Be Still)