Sometimes, whenever this situation presents itself, I will respond by saying, "Thanks for asking. Well, I just lost my job and my wife is sick". I do this to 1) see if the person heard me and 2) to see if the person truly wanted to know how I am doing. Very rarely does a person stop and sincerely ask me for further details. In short, while they would have heard me say that I lost my job, they didn't listen to what I actually said. There is a huge difference between hearing and listening, especially when engaging in conversations.
Issue and problem solving begins when we act like adults and hold meaningful conversations with each other, even with those who we are supposed to hate and disagree with. Meaningful conversations begin by listening and not hearing. Unfortunately, both political parties talk first and listen second, which leads to name calling and stalemates. Take the gay marriage issue. If both sides agreed that all governments (state, federal & local) should get out of the marriage business, the argument would end. With no government involvement, wouldn't everyone be free and equal to do as they please regarding marriage? However, if the argument ends, there would be no more fighting. There would be no more money needed fight to opposition. With no money and no power, there is nothing to fight for. So therefore, the issue has to keep going in order to sustain the two opposing sides. Thus, we have created a situation where people hear and not listen. If they'd listen and try to understand the other parties' position, they would be more apt to try and solve the issue. We must elect those people who will listen first to their constituents and talk second to their peers and opponents in government. It's time that our representatives start listening first and talking second.
Moreover, as Christians, we must first listen to our fellow brothers and sisters who we may not agree with. Listening builds relationships, which are paramount. After the relationship is built based upon mutual trust, then we will be able to talk with honesty, compassion and authenticity, three traits that seem to be missing today everywhere from Washington to churches to our neighborhoods.
So how do we return this nation and culture to sound principles:
- One conversation at a time.
- And one election at a time.
Listen First. Talk Second. Because talking first drowns out any listening.