19 Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. 20 This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.
22 You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves.
11 Brothers and sisters, don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law. If you find fault with the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge over it. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you?
Author Stephen Covey said, “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” * That’s not a recent issue. Romans, Jews and Samaritans blamed each other for conflict without trying to understand, and we still do today. But James called Christ-followers to “be quick to listen.” He asked, bluntly, “You who judge your neighbor, who are you?” Only God (not us), he said, “is able to save and to destroy.”
Lord of life, help me tame my tongue, and the inner insecurities that so often set my tongue off. Help me to respond to the grace you give me by living ever more faithfully. Amen.
* In an article titled “Active Listening Skills” by Dianne Grande, Ph.D. found at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-it-together/202006/active-listening-skills. The whole article is clear, practical and worth reviewing.
** Hamilton, Adam, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White (p. 22). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
Not long ago, my mom did something I never would’ve expected her to do-–she posted something overtly political on Facebook. I was flabbergasted. Actually, I convinced myself that it couldn’t have been my mom that posted it… it must’ve been my dad using my mom’s account.
It’s not that my mom doesn’t have strong political views-–she does. I just have never known her to be particularly vocal about them. She has always preferred to live her politics in the way she cares for the people around her, rather than speaking her politics with words.
The view she expressed on Facebook was the polar opposite of how I feel about this particular topic, but where she stood on it didn’t surprise me. The surprise was that she was broadcasting her stance at all.
So naturally she and I talked about it the next time I was home.
She told me that, in today’s political climate, she felt she had to be vocal about what she believed. The questions swirled in my head. What about her experience of the world today made her take this posture that was so different than how she’d lived the rest of her life? And what made her decide to make this change now?
We didn’t have time to talk through all my questions-–and, to be honest, I needed time to process and understand my own reaction to all of this. My own journey on Facebook has trended the opposite direction from my mom’s. I used to be really out-spoken on there, but in the last year or so I’ve found myself getting quieter. This hasn’t been altogether intentional, but with the busyness of life and the increasingly inflammatory nature of online discourse, more and more of my online conversations have been happening within the context of closed groups, rather than being public invitations to dialogue.
Since my mom had begun publicly opening up about her political stances, was she being bolder and braver than I was? Or since I’d been holding my cards a bit closer to my chest, was I being wiser than she was?
I’m going to suggest that perhaps neither of those things are true. Perhaps the bold, brave thing was the conversation we had about it face-to-face. Perhaps the wise thing is for us to continue having these conversations together. Often I only superficially engage with people different from myself, and the result is that I construct a stereotype of that person instead of seeing the nuance, depth, and experiences that make up their perspective. That only feeds the polarization.
But maybe reconciliation is not found in the views we express, or even in finding a shared middle-ground between our different views, but in the act of listening to one another and seeing the entirety of their personhood. Maybe it's about breaking down those stereotypes we've built up. This approach requires a posture of humility-–more humility than I think I have most of the time. But maybe that posture of humility is the point.
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