I was talking with a friend recently. He was talking about something that mattered to him. I was listening—sort of. When I was driving back home, I realized that I could not remember what he was saying. Was I paying attention?
When i think about it, there are times when I am with another person and I am listening to them. Or at least I think I am. But, later I realize that sometimes I am paying more attention to what I am thinking rather than what they are saying. I am distracted by my own life even as I am listening to someone else share his life.
My distraction from the other person words is sometimes triggered by what they are saying. Sometimes other people’s passions, their “declarations of truth” are totally opposite of what I believe. So, when they say something like, “Religious people in their right minds can’t believe in . . . . (you fill in the blank). When that is said, I immediately go into my own defensive mode, wanting to convince the other person that I am in my right mind and don’t believe what they say religious people in their right mind believe. I just stop listening to them and start listening to my own defense.
The problem with really listening to another is that to actually hear them might require that I rethink what I “know” to be true. To actually hear another share their understanding of what is happening may require that my understanding might be modified—I might have to give up the “truth” that has guided my thoughts and change the way I think.
But, when I look back on my life, I have been way more blessed with a changing and expanding understanding than when I clung rigidly to the world the way I had constructed it in my own mind. And most of the blessing has been because I have enriched my relationship and expanded my connection with the human family by actually listening to them.