Listening is a great art and a great gift. Today I am reminded that it is important to listen. We often think we are good listeners or that we are listening to what is being said to us, yet we often are tuned into other things that relate more to our own agenda or our own needs or issues.
The people of God are called to be different. We are a people called to be present to each other with listening ears. We are to be a people who listen not just with our ears but with our eyes and with our minds. We are a people who seek to serve the Christ is all persons. We are called by baptism to love all people. Paul Tillich was a great theologian from the past century who said that, “The first duty of love is to listen.” That sometimes means listening hard to hear the Holy Voice through all of the garble of our judgement and misguided perceptions. How often do we draw the wrong conclusions about someone else without the real knowledge necessary to make those judgements?
M. Scott Peck who wrote “People of the Lie” and other great books on relationships, wrote;
“An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside of one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker’s world from the inside, step in inside his or her shoes. This unification of speaker and listener is actually and extension and enlargement of ourselves, and new knowledge is always gained from this. Moreover, since true listening involves bracketing, a setting aside of the self, it also temporarily involves a total acceptance of the other. Sensing this acceptance, the speaker will fell less and less vulnerable and more and more inclined to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener. As this happens, speaker and listener begin to appreciate each other more and more, and the duet dance of love is begun again.”
I need to be a better listener. We all do. God is speaking to me and to all of us in voices that we have shut out. If we totally accept the other we will no doubt experience more of the relentless love of God expressed in others and in relationship.
I think I will perk my ears up a little. I will covenant to try to look beyond the obvious when I encounter others. I will seek to listen with more than my ears that I may be a better disciple of Jesus. I will seek to bracket, to set myself aside. Listen……