Listening is Not Agreeing –
Late last week someone said something about me and that I didn’t agree. At first, the emotion was to respond, defend myself, dig in my heels, push back against the criticism. It wasn’t something overwhelmingly harsh but it did rub me the wrong way.
Instead of responding right away I sat with it for a bit and reflected on it. Oftentimes critiques are met with resistance. We want to defend ourselves. However, if we are too quick to jump our own defense we might miss something constructive. There’s an old wisdom saying; “Both criticism and compliments should be taken with the same weight.” Receiving compliments and praise can be easier but they have a way of pumping up our ego and sense of self. Criticisms, if held on to, can create bitterness, rivalry, and ruptured relationships.
One of the greatest disciplines of contemplative listening is found in the truth; “Listening is not agreeing.” When someone speaks to us a compliment or criticism we do not have to own it, take it inside of us, let it mingle with our minds, emotions, and spirits. We can examine it, turn it over in our minds and, if we have self-awareness, can decide if it is meant for us, to grow, to learn, to let it become a part of us. Perhaps its simply another’s opinion and through insight and stillness, we discover that we can let it go. It’s not for us.
“The mark of a wise mind is the ability to hold a thought in our heads
and not necessarily believe it to be true.” #Aristotle
I was talking with a friend this week about the different masks we wear when we go different places. There’s a work mask, family mask, friend mask, public mask, and somewhere, often buried deep is our true authentic ourselves. The problem is that we become so accustomed to wearing masks we never take one off for too long or risk showing the world who we are under all the fantasy. The conversation continued and we wondered if any of the illusions we create could eventually lead us to allow others to see the genuine person.
The conversation continued and we wondered if any of the illusions we create could eventually lead us to allow others to see the genuine person. We are so accustomed to hiding the “real” us, the person we think people won’t like, that wearing masks become our default and our defense.
The question becomes how do we break free of this habit of wearing masks? Overcome the fear of our authentic selves not being good enough? How do we begin to discover who we are when concealing our true identity has been our goal for most of our life? This is the reason we are here now, the journey we are meant to travel, the discovery, not of a lifetime, but of life.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.”
Checking In –
Yesterday afternoon a man wielding a machete walked into a local bank and took 9 people hostage. His intent apparently wasn’t money but the result of a relationship gone bad and most likely a mental health issue. The standoff lasted several hours into the evening. In the end, all the hostages were released. I didn’t find out about this situation until long after it had begun because I had taken a nap and read that was at a Chic-Fil-A several miles from where my wife works.
When Beth got home yesterday she was distant and I couldn’t figure out why. I asked her and she responded that everyone else at the bank had gotten a call or text from their significant other regarding the standoff at the bank but I didn’t check in to make sure she was okay. It hurt her feelings. After listening I told her; “Babydoll, I didn’t know it had happened, that it wasn’t at a bank or close to your location.” I could tell my reasons weren’t resonating with her. So, I apologized. I wasn’t sure what I was sorry for except she was hurt and this was enough.
Too often we don’t want to apologize, especially if we feel we’re in the “right.” Asking forgiveness is like pulling teeth when we can offer a defense. Wisdom teaches us that if another person is harmed we should feel empathy, sorrow and do whatever we can to ease the pain and heal the wound.