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
Thursday night I got lost. I was in Paris, TN, a place I’ve never been before, and ventured out to find dinner. I thought I knew where I was going because when I arrived in the afternoon I made mental notes of a few landmarks and restaurants. However, that was in the day time and now it was night. Somewhere I made a wrong turn and the more adjustments I made the more lost I became. Finally, after admitting to myself I had no idea where I was or how to get where I was going, I opened the map app on my phone and it showed me the way.
Wisdom tells us that knowing we don’t know is the key to understanding, gaining knowledge and insight. The difficulty is our ego doesn’t like admitting powerlessness, weakness and not knowing. It is only when we’ve let go of our pride and embrace humility that we can be shown the way.