There are lots of things in this world that are shifting right now. There’s a new awareness of issues that have been buried for a long time-ignored, deemed unimportant, or simply denied.
Some of us may think we don’t need to listen, don’t need to hear the stories. An unwillingness to listen, in my opinion, signifies an even greater need to listen. When we feel like we know it all, we need to dig deeper and look for more-particularly when it’s something we’ve had no actual experience in ourselves. For example, if you are white, you might say Black History Month is overkill and it’s all water under the bridge and there’s a lot of overreacting going on. My question would be, have you listened to any black voices on the current racial climate in America? Have you sought out writings or interviews from black men and women before you assume you understand their experience? I think the motivator for denial, a lot of the time, is fear-that we may have to change if we really do dig in deep… that we may need to repent or shift the way we live.
The same can be said of the #metoo movement. Men, are you willing to sit and listen to any woman on her honest experience in life? If you do, you will likely hear story after story of harassment or assault or uncomfortable encounters with men who just assumed their touch was wanted. It will open your eyes, it will shift the way you see things. And while you may have never been one who has offended, your heart will begin to ache when you become aware of how often this occurs and that discomfort is something that will cause you to change and change is hard, even when it’s for the better.
You understand, hopefully, that listening to the voice of someone with a differing experience doesn’t negate or lessen your own voice/experience. I really feel that when we listen well and seek to understand it brings greater value to our own voice and our own experience. It rounds it out, makes us all richer, helps us to see the dimension God created when He created male and female, different races and nationalities. We need to listen to those with different levels of ability and income and housing and education… When we acknowledge the image of God in those around us-the right to be treated with dignity and respect and simple kindness-we are better for it, they are better for it, and quite honestly, the world is better for it.
The beauty of listening to stories is that we can take what was an issue and replace it with a person. This changes how we approach things, then. When we truly listen-without the immediate desire to argue or change the other person-we are invited into the life and heart of another person, and again-we are better for it, they are better for it, and the world is better for it.
Listening is scary and hard, but it is also full of beauty and goodness. I want to do those things-the hard and the scary-because I also want to experience the beauty and the goodness. I follow Jesus, you see, and He asks me to be a reconciler. But I can’t do that if I don’t know what’s broken to begin with.