I admit I have a terrible time fully and intently listening to people. Often when I’m asked what someone just said, I may recall key words but often miss out on the main point of the conversation. Ask my wife and I’m sure she’ll tell you that sometimes she feels like recording a podcast because then she may have a chance of getting my full attention!
Because I’m sometimes off in my own little world, It’s too easy for me to pass judgment without even hearing the other side of a story. That is why today’s StillSpeaking reflection means so much to me. It’s a wake-up call, a reminder, in sight into the way things should be. This devotional is based on a verse from Exodus 3 where God tell Moses and the people of Israel, “I have given heed to you.” God sets the example of listening, understanding our story (in the case of Israel, their slavery in Egypt), and acting with this in mind.
Recognition and respect can be more important than agreement. Think of angry times in personal relationships—or disputes at church. Often one side or the other feels that their position is not really listened to or taken seriously. Disagreement is easier to handle on the other side of respect.
In one congregation, a Vietnam veteran had seen many friends in his unit killed or disabled in the service of their country. This lay behind his deep feelings about patriotism and “liberals” he considered un-American. No one had wanted to hear about what he’d been through. Once he was really listened to, a more thoughtful spirit prevailed in conversation about justice and peace.
In another church, there was an owner of a small business who had been overwhelmed with government red tape while also confronting an aggressive labor union. He was a defiant libertarian who hated government and unions. Once he described what he’d been through, more open and productive discussion was possible in church debate about collective bargaining rights.
As with Moses, God recognizes and respects us, “gives heed,” wherever we are on life’s journey. There is judgment, sure—sometimes welcome, sometimes hard to accept. But it is judgment that takes into account what’s behind our feelings and behavior.
When we can’t give heed this way to others, we can at least remember there’s always something more important than how much we agree—and some one thing we don’t know.
God, may we recognize and respect others the way we want to be recognized and respected ourselves. And when we can’t, give us pause before we pass judgment. Amen.
–by William C Green, from StillSpeaking