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
Earlier this afternoon, between rain showers, I took some trash to the dump and stopped to get some gas for the lawnmower. Afterward, heading home and stopped at a traffic light, my eye caught a large raindrop in the center of my truck window. My first response was to turn on the wipers but instead, I watched it slowly slip down my windshield. The light turned green and as I began moving the wind flow pushed the large raindrop back up the glass.
The faster I went, the more resistance, the further up it went. However, when the speed was too great the raindrop split into three, one not quite as large and two smaller ones. The two smaller one rolled up the window and disappeared. Another red traffic light requiring me to stop and the raindrop began to slide down again. Green means go and I did my best to keep my speed around 40MPH because this seemed to keep the droplet in the middle of the glass. I did notice that even though it was staying put it was still getting smaller. The wind resistance was wearing away the raindrop and eventually, it vanished.
The rest of the way home I thought about the raindrop and life. We too are worn down by resistance. Time, difficulties, tragedies, and simple everyday living. If we live too fast we fall apart, not enough and it’s a quick descent to oblivion. Finding the right pace, knowing where our balance is, taking care of this fragile gift called life takes mindfulness and patience. Even when we get these things right it doesn’t mean we live forever for resistance, wearing down, out and thin is part of existence.
One life is all we get but if we do it well one is all we need.