Monday, May 04, 2015

Mindful Monday - Listen with the Intent to Understand

Over the past week a lot has been said about the events taking place in Baltimore.  Social media exploded with images and comments about what people think is right or wrong.  We've shared opinions and exercised our right to speak freely.

But how much listening have we done?  I mean, how much have we truly listened?  Not much.  As students this is a skill we were taught.  An expectation, actually.  Yet, something happens in adulthood.  The very thing we're expecting our children to do is something we as adults are not doing enough of ourselves.  How can we expect our future generation to do this if we're not following our own set of expectations?

Of all the comments I've seen on social media, the one I'm about to share with you had the most profound impact on me.  It was written by a sports broadcaster in Baltimore.  I invite you to read it.  When you read it, read it with the intent to understand.

" Over the past couple of weeks as tensions have risen to a boil in Baltimore I have intentionally avoided making any comments about the swirl of surreal scenes that have unfolded: A drug store burning, tear gas in the streets, an empty Camden Yards, Ravens players reaching out to high school students, angry crowds, prideful parents, hopeful residents, prayerful communities. I have watched a flood of traffic fill Twitter, the indelible images stretching across TV screens, and the screech of anger from all corners of the larger community and all walks of life. It seems as if everyone wants to be right and wants to pass judgement.

Here are some of the things I have learned:

- Complex problems don't lend themselves to solutions of 140 characters or less.

- Opinions and emotions are dangerous dance partners.

- Telling other people how they should live their lives flies in the face of the concept of liberty.

- The right of expression must find common ground with the rights of property and business owners to achieve real effectiveness.

- There comes a point at which talking adds nothing more than noise to a situation.

But the most important thing I have taken away from Baltimore's spring of 2015 is that we all need to listen more. Perhaps one day they will develop an app for that, an app where we just listen to each other—with no need to comment, contest, challenge, or confront. Just listen.

There are more than enough commentators to this situation as it moves from percolating anger to joyful celebration. I won't be one of them.

I am not African American. I do not live in a neighborhood with high crime and low employment. I do not feel helpless or without resources. I have never flinched because I made eye contact with a police officer. And I am not qualified to comment on how life looks and feels from any of those perspectives. But I am qualified to listen. We all are. And it is my greatest hope that what we have seen unfold in Baltimore becomes a spring board not to a larger platform for any individual or groups, but simply an inspiration for all of us—people of any age, any race, any gender—to put more pause into our lives, more pause filled with the lost art of listening. Not listening to judge. Listening to understand. Not listening to agree or disagree. Listening to understand.

No life can be brought back. No injury can be unrendered. No errors in judgement can be corrected in the past. But if we listen without need to judge we can begin to change the future together and create a future where understanding replaces undermining, a future where empathy diffuses anger, a future where we build stronger relationship instead of merely rebuilding old problems that will find a way to erupt again.

This is my hope for my town and for yours—wherever you call home. Because if you think this is a problem that belongs to only Baltimore then I would suggest you aren't listening." - Gerry Sandusky

As we begin a new week, I invite you to join me in truly listening.  Be mindful of what others are saying.  Don't judge or listen with the intent of stating your opinion.  Listen with the intent to understand.  Permanent and positive change can only happen when we've mastered this skill.

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