This morning I sent out the following tweet: "DISMISS OR DISCUSS? I think most of us would rather dismiss those who have different perspectives than discuss why they think that way." (If you want, you can follow me on Twitter, at "@GrayNors.") I wonder why we would rather dismiss than discuss. Maybe because sitting down to discuss with someone of a different perspective takes time and is not always easy. To really listen, we have to hold off on thinking only about how we want to respond. Yet, when we do take time to listen, it can actually reduce our anxiety when we begin to understand why someone thinks differently than we do. Maybe that person grew up in a completely different situation from us. Maybe they have challenges going on in their lives we do not know about. Maybe they have some bit of information or insight we have never considered. When we take time to really listen to each other's stories, we not only begin to understand them better, we demonstrate to them that we care. We show them the love of Christ.
This past Sunday I said in the sermon that as Christians we believe humans are both created in the image of God and sinners saved by God's grace. Taking the time to discuss rather than dismiss someone shows that we value others because they are made in the image of God. And because we are all sinners saved by God's grace - our listening can be one of the ways God uses to convey God's grace to that person.
In his classic book, The Road Less Traveled, psychiatrist M. Scott Peck writes about the effort it takes to express love through giving another person our attention: "Attention is an effort of will, of work against the inertia of our own minds." Listening to someone - especially someone with whom we disagree - is hard work. But, it is worth the effort! So this week, make the effort to get out of the comfort zone of talking only to those with whom you agree, and listen to someone who thinks differently - all in the name of love . . . Christ's love!
Prayer for Today
God, you are somehow able to give your attention to each one of us. We thank you for that sacrificial act of love. Show us someone who needs our attention. Enable us to slow down and really listen. Keep us from dismissing others simply because we don't want to make the effort to listen. And may your peace that passes all understanding work its way into our lives, our relationships, our communities, and our world. Amen.