It is important to me that I do my best to understand all sides of an issue and I do my best to listen carefully when someone wants to explain their position to me. I don't have to end up agreeing with them once all is said and done, but if discussion is going to have any value at all, there needs to be a real effort at listening.
I would like to believe that if I commit myself to listening, I am doing so to promote dialog or understanding. I listen because I want to learn. I listen because I want to understand what is important to you. I hope I honor you when I work hard to find the grains of truth that everyone has tucked away in their position - even if it is pretty radical from my view.
And, perhaps, I can then continue to grow - perhaps bringing the person I listened to along for the ride - so we can both come to a better understanding. Maybe we can both change a little and grow a little. Maybe we can both be better.
That's the ideal. That's how I draw out the plan in my own head.
But, I have found that there is one key method you can use to get me to stop listening and forsake that plan entirely.
I Stopped Listening
... that day when you decided to use an offensive word or a disrespectful nickname for people who do not agree with you. It didn't matter if it wasn't a really nasty word, because I could hear the disdainful tone that was behind it.
Maybe you hear that name or word so much that you don't realize you use it? Do you really think people who don't agree with you are evil, unworthy, and past redemption of any sort? Perhaps you don't know that my personal beliefs just might qualify me to be one of those people for whom you have so much anger - or blatant disregard. If that is the case, do you really feel that I am not worthy of walking on the same good earth that you do? If you don't mean that, it sure feels like you do.
And, if you back-peddle and say, "I didn't mean you, specifically," why do you give me a "pass?" If you don't offer me a pass, does that mean all of the time we have been good acquaintances, friends, or family count for nothing?
The china is broken and glue won't put it back to the way it was. What can we do now?
I Stopped Listening
...when you made it startlingly clear that you understood the issue completely and that there was no other way a person could see it.
I wonder what it must be like to have every piece of information immediately available to you AND then be able to boil it all down to your personal point of view that excludes all others. I am amazed at your ability to trust one source completely and then discard another without even reading or viewing what it offers. You have made it clear that if I suggest anything that does not fall in line with what you now believe that I am wrong, I am stupid, and I am damned to burn in hell for eternity.
It doesn't matter that I have seen you make mistakes. I have seen you stumble. I know you are not perfect... and so should you. From that imperfection should be humility that recognizes that we do not know everything and that we can be wrong. Oh so wrong.
But, you seem to have forgotten that.
I Stopped Listening
... the moment you showed how much hate and intolerance motivated you to speak.
And, I feel bad about that. Because I, too, am showing my own intolerance by making my own assumptions about you. And I question myself - am I letting my own hate, my own self-pride, and my own opinions prevent me from being the one who is a bridge between worlds? The truth hurts, because I probably am - and it hurts to admit it.
But, I tried to listen to show respect to you - someone who should be respected.
And you threw that respect back in my face by telling me that I, or people I care about, are less than valuable - less than lovable - less than equal to you.
Perhaps the only way I can continue to honor you is to stop listening to you, and try again to quietly tell you why I stopped. Why it hurt or why it could hurt. Why I hope you can consider making some changes.
And, I fear that when I do, you will mark me as unworthy for redemption. And I will do the same to you.