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
A friend of mine walked into a metaphorical hornet’s nest today with a social media post on the situation in Dallas, the death of 5 police officers and 2 black American men this week. What was written wasn’t inflammatory or derogatory it was her opinion on the crisis our country finds itself in regards to race, law enforcement and the reality of people being hurt and killed on both sides.
It didn’t take long before someone took offence at the post and began attacking the post and the author. My friend posted back, trying to clarify what was written, but it was too late. The poster had already decided my friend was wrong, ignorant, racist, incompetent, a dreamer.
One of my favorite wisdom quotes:
The mark of a wise man is the ability to think a thought without necessarily believing it to be true. #Aristotle
We live in a world where folks are so quick to choose sides. They formulate an opinion and plant their feet firmly in their belief. We’ve seem to have lost the ability to listen, examine, mull over our opinions and the opinions of others. People like to pretend things are simple. We come up with, or across, slogans, mottoes, memes, social media posts, news articles and use them as weapons to defend our ideologies, prove we’re right and others are wrong. We use them as litmus tests to separate “us” from “them”.
We live in a complicated world where more than one thing can be true and/or false. The issues which plague us are not going to be solved by catchphrases but authentic dialogue. Only when we stop seeing others as “them” and not “us”, only when we sit down and confess the ignorance, biases, judgments that exist on every side. Only when we realize our thoughts, ideas, impressions, opinions and beliefs aren’t necessarily true because we think them will we be able to take the first real step toward healing.
Company is coming and Spring cleaning makes for hard work. This weekend we’ve been cleaning in anticipation of a couple of my wife’s family arriving for a visit. Part of my to-do list was making the dog’s room presentable. Not an easy job but not overwhelming until I climbed on a stool to clean the top of the refrigerator located in the room. “Yikes!” So much dust and dog hair. What a mess. After a big; “sigh!” I got to work and now it’s nice and shiny, squeaky clean. I spot clean the dog’s room regularly but since the refrigerator is taller than me I never look up on top.
Life is similar. We focus on certain visible areas but the harder to reach places, the not seen so often places, we ignore. Wisdom teaches us that we are to examine every part of our lives and keep even the hidden places clean.