There’s been an awful lot going on this last month…and sometimes it’s left me feeling discouraged.
- Hurricanes leaving incredible devastation in their wake…and what feels like an inability (or unwillingness) to respond to the needs of the people who have lost everything and who must be wondering just where do you even start to recover…
- Earthquake in Mexico…again leaving devastation and sorrow in its wake…
- The protests against injustice and inequality…
- Listening to incredibly painful stories of members of the LGBTQ+ community…
And yet…there is something to be learned–and hope to be found.
Recently I was at a weekend focused on history of faith communities that come out of the same heritage mine does. For many, many years, the various faith communities refused to talk to each other. We talked AT each other and we spent much of our time pointing out the differences between us and how we were right. More recently, though, we have talked and worked together–and that has been a blessing. We are still aware of our differences both in understanding our history and in our theologies…but we have found that there are many ways in which we can work together to make a difference.
Responders to natural disasters also at times need silence so that they can listen…listen to hear voices calling for help.
And as I watch the protests against justice and inequality–and listen to the responses about those protests–and listened to the stories of young (and older) people who have experienced incredible pain and sometimes severe trauma as they have struggled to be true to who they are…I have learned much.
It requires us to listen. Not just to listen–but also to hear. And sometimes that requires us to be silent.
I’ve just finished reading a book I’d highly recomment–On Living by Kerry Egan. She’s a hospice chaplain, and the book contains stories shared from her experience–both personal experience she had after the birth of her first child as well as stories her patients have encouraged her to share. I’m a minister in my faith tradition–and this quote from her book really spoke to me:
“When we dismiss an experience as “not real,” what we are actually rejecting is the person’s attempt at making meaning of the experience. That’s a cruel thing to do. Attempting to find or make meaning is perhaps the central task of the spiritual life.”
So what does that have to do with the issues I pointed out above? I think it has a lot.
We can get so caught up in all the horror of the natural disasters that we don’t really hear the cries for help.
We can have such a visceral emotional response to a protest that we are unable (or unwilling) to hear the pain that causes the protest.
What if we asked instead this question: “What does that [action…fear…event] mean to you?” And then, what if we really listened to the question? Really listened…
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” —Roy T. Bennett in The Light in the Heart