For over a week now, I’ve been drafting a blog about systemic racism and how the events in Kenosha, Wisconsin epitomized our racial divide. With more pondering, I realized that I was addressing the wrong issue. People have stopped listening to each other on this topic. Opinions have already been made and set in stone. Besides, as a white male, my words would have little weight or bearing on racism. So, my blog radically changed gears toward another national epidemic.
Listening. Is it a lost art? Have we forgotten how to listen? We hear, but do we listen? I’m talking about true active listening. Listening to understand, not just to respond. I know I am guilty of not practicing this vital skill enough. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. The rarity of this skill is perhaps more heightened with our new norm of social distancing. How can we stay physically distant while connecting cognitively and emotionally? Can empathy and understanding exist in a world of isolation?
How often have we seen harsh words on social media or elsewhere lately that reveals the toxic symptoms of this lack of listening? We build up verbal ammunition for defense or even attack to prove ourselves right. Instead of taking offense, arguing, debating, or attacking. I choose to UNDERSTAND. I choose to SUPPORT. I choose to LOVE. I choose to LIFT.
I am a devout Christian. I believe in my savior Jesus Christ. He lives and loves each and every one of us. I know He sees us through lenses of love. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. His message is to lift where you stand, to love others no matter where they stand. Ours is not to judge others by their race, background, beliefs, or even their words or actions. Instead I can live my beliefs through love and service.
During our last virtual Sunday church service, the speaker focused on the Christ’s words from Luke 6:27-36:
27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
The speaker continued by asking us to self-evaluate the following three things which will improve the quality of our human connection on a level that supersedes politics, religion, even race or nationality.
- Vison. Do we see others as God sees them? Or even as they see themselves? Do we give others the benefit of the doubt, or instinctively judge and criticize? This includes how we think about ourselves. We are often our own worst critic. Can we look past our differences and weaknesses and focus our vision on each other’s similarities and strengths instead?
- Embrace Diversity. Do I physically or emotionally distance from those who have different cultural or ideological views than I do? Am I comfortable connecting with those with different backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions than me? Am I ok to agree to disagree and still have meaningful relationships? Instead of the old adage, “hate the sin, love the sinner,” we can say “love the sinner, invite them to dinner!” After all, this is exactly what Christ did. By including more into our social circles, we invite more opportunities to listen, understand, and practice empathy.
- Don’t Look Beyond the Mark. Do we look toward the final end result, but forget the steps between? It is important to society and individuals that rules apply to all individuals. In our quest for equity, we can check our own attitudes, and make sure we don’t live as if we know better than others. The rules apply to all of us, but do I live as if some rules don’t apply to me? If so, maybe I can change my own mindset.
Most of us are good at social civilities and superficial kindness. That’s a great start! Now it’s time to delve deeper, for the sake of our whole country, but more importantly for the sake of each individual. We can focus to see others in a different light. We can choose to embrace differences instead of attacking them. We can choose to empathize with other’s individual struggles and heartaches. We can choose to listen and connect in a positive way. I invite you to join me in this challenge:
I choose to find someone who I might not normally associate with. Then I’ll find some way to improve their day. It begins with me. It begins with us.