“Remember, before you speak, it is necessary to listen,” Mother Theresa
Arguments. Gossip. Hostility. Name-calling. Contempt. All this occurs in an atmosphere of wanting to be right, of not listening, of refusing to be slow enough to speak in order that we hear and learn. This kind of talking does nothing but stroke our own ego.
He then called the crowd together and said, “Listen, and take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.” (Matthew 15:11)
How can we, in a climate of division and mistrust, practice the skill of taking a step back in order to arrive at a willingness to listen? And not just listen to form a reply, but listen with the intent of understanding.
This kind of listening accomplishes several things.
- It helps us widen our own narrow perception of reality
- It helps us form relationships
- It helps us understand the experiences, history and hurts of other people
- If we are Christians, it helps unify us with our brothers and sisters in Christ
- It allows us to hear the voice of God through the Holy Spirit
Of course, we must desire to step back from anger, practice thinking before speaking, prefer to find common ground, and aspire to approach people with openness and compassion. If we don’t, then we simply choose to reject, condemn and despise.
As we stay silent and think – seriously consider our words before we speak, weigh the consequences of our words on others, take time to evaluate the words of others, and reflect on how words that float on social media have an effect on you and the children you know – we begin to form conclusions driven by more than our momentary and sometimes incendiary reactions to an event.
We are able to respond in a way that includes listening to understand.
So faith comes from hearing the message, and the message heard is what Christ spoke. (Romans 10:17)
We are able and willing to widen our perspective to see another point of view. We are able and willing to have compassion for the experiences of people unlike ourselves. We are able and willing to seek common ground and thus solutions, instead of blame. We are able and willing to find unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And finally, we are able and willing to hear the blessing of God’s voice.
“In silence we will find new energy and true unity. Unity is the fruit of prayer, of humility, of love…We cannot find God in noise or agitation… In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.” Mother Teresa