We've talked before in these blogs about all the shouting across an ever-widening chasm that's occurring in our country and our world. Who's listening? Where will it all end? Is it possible to reintroduce civility and respect to our culture again?
So it was with interest that I read the following in Karen Armstrong's wonderful book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life:
"There is much talk of the need for dialogue as a way of improving international relations. But will it be Socratic [where listening rather than winning a debate is important] or an aggressive dialogue that seeks to humiliate, manipulate, or defeat? Are we prepared to 'make place for the other,' or are we determined simply to impose our own will? An essential part of this dialogue must be the effort to listen. We have to make a more serious effort to hear one another's narratives."
Can we hear one another's stories? And do so without judgment, knowing that the emotional component of someone's story can hold deep pain and meaning that impacts behavior in ways we can't always understand. As Armstrong said, "We need to listen to the undercurrent of pain in our enemy's story. And we should be aware as well that our version of the same event is also likely to be a reflection upon our own situation and suffering rather than a dispassionate and wholly factual account." Cut others some slack. Be gentle with one another since we don't know all that's going on for the other. And listen. Really listen—whether you see this person as enemy or friend.