If ever there was a time for us to put this verse into greater practice, it would be now. In our culture and sadly even within our faith communities, we find it very difficult to really listen well to those with whom we disagree. This can become even more difficult when the subject matter is something that we feel very passionate about. This, of course is nothing new, we see Jesus having some of the same problems in his own day;
During our time away, most of which we spent with our now grown up children spread from Eastern to Southern to Western parts of the US. One thing you find with your children is that as they grow and develop, perhaps get married and begin to create their own family culture, they are changed and that is a good thing. It becomes a difficult thing when you don't necessarily agree with those changes, or worse perhaps, believe them to be wrong.
We had some challenging but significant conversations because of these realities which have caused me to reflect a lot about how I respond to these situations in a manner that is honest, open and loving. In fact I even get direct help from some of my adult children to do this kind of work! But it is good work I would suggest. I read just recently someone say, "Deep listening is an act of surrender. We risk being changed by what we hear." Am I willing to be challenged in this way? How about you?
We have to learn to be able to quieten the thoughts, judgements and emotions flowing within ourselves in order to truly hear another person, to honor them and value what they say. To sometimes get behind the words being spoken to truly appreciate what this means for them, why it matters, even perhaps what is at stake in their lives and situations. To be able to do all this without losing track of who we are and what we believe, yet being willing to grow because of our "visit" with the other person. This all takes some courage, capacity and skill, all vital attributes if we are to mature as members of a family, a community, of God Himself.
Listening can also help to release creative energy in the person who is speaking. We give them a gift, the opportunity to their thinking and ideas as they give expression to what they are currently "in touch" with, but in a safe and affirming environment where we are truly present to one another, a beautiful picture of how the lord is with us to help us to become something "in Him" that we could never be alone.
When Carol and I attended Larry Crabb's School of Spiritual Direction, one thing we learned there is understanding how often what we hear from others can trigger responses in us because of our own "stuff" and we must be careful not to respond out of this place, but rather learn to listen too to the Holy Spirit, to respond out of this place of beautiful union within us that we have with the Lord. He called it our 'Upper Room' but this calls for us to become more conscious of how our own stories (including our pain) have shaped us, and how we are inviting the bigger story of Jesus to both define and empower us. This is why we need a safe place to be ourselves, still a "work in progress", but yet fully accepted and loved ... the Church on a good day!
In listening courageously we are hopefully engaged in a 2-way conversation where there is movement in both directions and our goal of deeper knowing and understanding become more of a reality. The article I read finished my saying this; 'Listening does not grant the other side legitimacy. It grants them humanity-and preserves our own'. I like that and I think that the world certainly needs to experience more of this.
With love and prayers,