Friday, June 17, 2016

A Time to Listen

(This is a repost of an essay I posted on my Facebook Page.)

On my heart tonight - 
We as a nation have been dealing with a lot of bad news lately. In just the past week, our country has had a front row seat to some awful tragedies.
The murder of a young, popular singer outside her concert venue. The evil terror attack on an LGBT nightclub that left 49 innocent people dead and many more wounded. Then the unfathomable death of a toddler at ‘the happiest place on earth’. 
Like most of you, I suspect, I watched the images and stories on our tv and read about them online and the words “Not again…” crossed my mind over and over again. Once more I felt the all too familiar grief grip my heart as our human community experienced the sadness of senseless loss of life.
Everyone’s hearts are broken in some way by tragedy.
And for a time, it binds us together.
Until we begin to ‘share’ our views. 
I watch the television news each day - primarily for the weather - but at times to get a glimpse of what others are seeing and hearing. For a while now, I’ve chosen to get my national and local news online, from a variety of sources because I want to always attempt to understand differing viewpoints. I’ve always believed that the first steps to understanding the heart and mind of another is to consider their words and actions in context of their culture.
Where they come from.
Their community, their people.
Their family.
Their beliefs, values and traditions.
The events that have shaped them.
And you have to WANT to understand them.
It’s impossible to know these things about others when you only talk at someone, not with them.
When you base your opinion of others on a what you think you know without truly understanding their heart, without caring about their cultural viewpoint, you allow misunderstanding, miscommunication and distrust to fester and grow.
I don’t always agree with these different viewpoints - truth be told, it’s not often I’m swayed from what I believe to be true.
But I’d be the worst kind of fool to not listen and try to understand. 
If you pay attention to ANY media source, there is no way you can avoid the typical armchair analysis of your social media ‘friends’ and the expert pontificating of the paid tv ‘pundits’. Everyone has an opinion and they’re not shy about sharing it. And we, probably most of us, often read or hear some things you agree with, some that you don’t. Some ideas reverberate within you and some bounce off your own teflon opinions. 
This happens every time we as a nation or a community experience tragedy.
And as much as I hate when we collectively experience tragic events, it has in the past, provided us as Americans - as humans - an opportunity for discourse.
Much needed discourse if we are to continue to understand the heart motivations of our friends and neighbors.
Unfortunately, it’s not always civil discourse and it’s here I stop in my tracks to ask where it’s all leading. 
Because lately, it feels so different. All semblance of civility has seemingly disappeared.
Words are being slung around like arrows simply to wound in the name of speaking a perceived ‘truth’.
Deliberate words.
Desperate words.
Cynical words.
Disillusioned words.
Personal words.
We’ve become so accustomed to arguing our point, angry that we’re not being ‘heard’ that we’ve stepped away from the shouting match into an all out street fight.
Pushing, shoving, spitting, pinching, biting, kicking, punching….
It’s an escalation scale I don’t even want to consider that’s now looming on our collective horizon. 
And to what end?
At what point do we stop throwing stones at each other?
When do we stop shouting at each other long enough to recognize that our chosen opponents are our friends, our neighbors, our family? We’ve become a people so obsessed with getting our own way that we have lost all sense of the humanity of others.
And in doing so we are losing ours. 
Those who know me - even peripherally - know that I’m a Christ-follower. Which, among other things, means I am called to LOVE others. It’s impossible to love others if we aren’t willing to set aside our pride and opinions and bullying tactics long enough to understand them.
To show love and kindness.
And don’t you want the same in return?
You don’t have to be a Christ-follower to show love to others or even to appreciate these words:
“Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable,
and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up,
never loses faith,
is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance.”
Yes, that’s from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to be exact.
But even if you don’t believe the Bible, how can you argue with living a life that exudes these qualities? Because the further down the degradation scale we fall, the further we get from basic human decency, respect and kindness that we all deserve. 
Hear my heart on this - we are choosing to live this way - and we can just as easily choose to not.
You don’t have to respond to anger and bitterness and insults and accusations with more of the same.
You can choose to respond out of a heart that wants to see a change, to make a difference for good.
But here’s the thing - you have to make that choice and follow through.
Saying the words, resolving to be different, determining to make a change is meaningless until you put that resolve into action.
Love in action.
Kindness in action.
Jesus gave us two commandments - superseding all others.
He said we are to Love God with all our hearts.
And He said we are to Love others in the same way we love ourselves. 
We begin to love others when we drop our fists and stones and arrows and words in order to listen.
It really is that simple.
With a Courageous Heart,

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I welcome and encourage comments provided they are respectful to all. A respectful exchange of ideas is a good thing so tell me what's on your heart too. I reserve the right to not publish any comment containing crude or offensive language or any that would disparage someone else.