I used to be a good listener. I’ve sat on a hard bench, listening to a girl recount not just one of her lives, but two. And even though I knew she couldn’t really have been Bloody Mary in a previous life (especially since she’d gotten the details of Queen Mary’s life confused with Elizabeth Báthory), I kept my damn mouth shut and just let her talk.
At some point, I turned into a terrible listener. I might take in the words and all, but sometimes I’ll dismiss them without a fair shot because I already know the right answer.
Maybe we get like that when we don’t feel heard. You’d think that when we don’t feel heard we’d have some empathy and listen harder since we know what it feels like to be dismissed. But, nah. We just tend to scream even louder, don’t we?
Sometimes I talk about being a crappy pacifist. Straight up, y’all. My name is Kristy and I’m a super crappy pacifist.
Oh, I’m not running around getting into drunken bar fights (anymore). But just avoiding violence—which is honestly pretty easy to do—isn’t enough.
Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the people who run away from fights” or “Blessed are you when you lay the verbal smackdown on someone instead of socking them in the jaw.”
We’re blessed when we make peace. Not enjoy any peace that may already exist. Make peace.
How do we begin to make peace?
We fucking listen.
Everyone believes they have a damn good reason for doing what they do. I’ve done some crazy shit, but I always had a reason for it.
When we see someone doing or saying the “wrong” thing, instead of saying, “Hey, listen up. Let me tell you all the reasons why you’re dumb and wrong,” we should say, “Hey, I want to understand how you got there. Can you tell me why you think that?”
Maybe that person does have a damn good reason and we’ve just never considered it before. Maybe we’ve been so sheltered from certain experiences that we can’t come to the correct answer because we need firsthand experience to fully understand the implications of those decisions.
Being correct doesn’t always give us the right to jump in. Christians should be slow to speak and quick to listen. Slow to give answers and quick to listen to the questions. Slow to impose our ways and quick to listen to others explain why they do what they do.
When we talk to others, are we being patient? Kind?
Are we being proud?
Are we making peace or feeding our ego?
Are we more concerned with being right than with being loving? Are we more worried about proving a point than we are about being the doer James mentioned? Are we so wrapped up in wasting energy on arguments and debates that we’ve defiled our religion and ignored the needs of vulnerable people?
Sometimes it’s OK to let people say wrong things. It’s OK if someone’s not quite there yet. It’s OK to realize we don’t know all there is to know. It’s OK to listen to ideas we disagree with or don’t like (even ideas that bring on Hulk-like rage).
But it’s never OK to be unloving.