I can remember when I was in middle school (late seventies, early eighties), there was a big to do about rock music. Being in Catholic school, we were told that rock music was evil. In fact, there were even rumors that if you played your records backwards you would hear satanic messages. No joke. Well you can’t tell kids that and not expect them to try it (smile).
My friends and I took our AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and all sorts of other albums and carefully placed the needle on the record. We then took a finger and slowly turned the record backwards. Well let me tell you…it sure sounds evil! I’m sure it’s because they put that in our minds. We would lean in and strain to see if we could hear any words that would prove that in fact our rock music was evil. We really couldn’t make heads or tails out of what we were hearing…which makes sense since it was basically hogwash. That didn’t make me feel any less guilty for listening to the music though.
If you google “The Art of Listening,” you get a ton of hits with everything from books, Ted talks, videos, etc. It seems to be a popular topic…as I think it should be. Listening is very important and I think nowadays it has become a lost art. I think it’s referred to as an art because it takes patience and practice.
I’ve been in situations when talking to someone in person where I’ve had to really concentrate on listening to them. It becomes difficult when they something that I don’t agree with or something that I think is wrong. My brain just immediately wants to think of a rebuttal to what they are saying. I have to make the conscious decision to keep my mouth shut and listen instead. I’m the type of person that needs to process. If I said something right away, chances are it would not be the most loving response. I tend to have a short fuse and I need time to digest things and reflect on what the person has said to me.
In this politically charged climate, many people have opinions on just about every subject. Some people’s opinions are based on facts. They have taken the time to research all of the “noise” that’s on social media, on the television, in the newspapers, etc. Other people’s opinions are based on falsehoods because they haven’t taken this same time to make sure they are basing their opinions on things that were actually said or done. The majority of us I believe fall into a third category of opinions which are based a little on truth and a little on the not so true…mixed in with our experiences. Let’s face it…our lives are busy and we don’t always double-check to make sure what we’ve read is completely factual. Especially if it speaks into our experiences.
It is what it is…but it becomes very important when we are dealing with others. This is especially true when on social media. I find that people say things on social media that they wouldn’t dream of saying to someone in person. Don’t get me wrong…some absolutely would, but I think that many of us have said something that we may have regretted later.
The art of listening is becoming lost. We need to wade through what people are saying and sharing. It’s one thing to disagree with someone’s opinion, but I am finding more and more that people are disagreeing with someone’s actual life experiences. People are so worried about arguing their point and being right that they are totally dismissing what the person is sharing with them. They aren’t listening…or in social media’s instance…reading with a listening ear.
I have literally seen someone share that they wanted to die and the person they were “debating” with online totally ignored the deep pain the person shared and continued to argue their point. It happened to my son when he was in a discussion with someone after the Pulse shooting. Some pastors expressed their approval of the murders. The person was lamenting about Christians being discriminated against and how they are all lumped into a category of being hateful people. It’s ok to express that, but the person totally ignored the part of people actually wanting my son dead. He kept trying to express what that felt like and the person never acknowledged it.
This is happening every day, every hour, every minute, every second in our society right now. People are trying to argue why they are right and you are wrong and totally missing the heart of what people are trying to share. (I’m not referring to standing up to injustice that is being seen). It’s one thing to dismiss someone’s opinion that you don’t agree with….maybe you have facts that are contrary to what they are sharing. It is a totally different thing to dismiss someone’s personal experience. I see it happen almost every day.
A recent example was the fire storm on social media when Judge Kennedy retired. It scared a lot of people in the LGBTQ community. He was instrumental in getting the law passed for same-sex marriage. I saw some people take some heat for their feelings about it. The people who were downplaying their feelings were from states where marriage was legal before the supreme court made the decision. Not to mention that the people doing the arguing were straight! Their marriage or future marriage is not in jeopardy. I see it regarding bullying and discrimination as well. If your gay child wasn’t bullied or discriminated against, it doesn’t mean that is the experience of someone else’s child. It makes sense right? You wouldn’t believe the arguments about it. Some states are safer than others. So it makes sense that people are going to experience things differently. Heck my state is a mixed bag. Just go a few miles to the north and the KKK is still alive and well.
All these years later, I can’t hear one of the songs that was supposed to be “devil music” on the radio today and not think of being told that in middle school. I think of it every time. It has stuck with me. Many of our experiences are like that. Can we remind ourselves that it is the same for others? Listen to what they are saying…or typing…and respond in love…or don’t respond at all. We are all entitled to our opinions. Chances are you aren’t going to “argue” someone out of them. Personal experiences are different and shouldn’t be argued about. Acknowledge them.
Let’s practice the art of listening…let’s respond in love…because love matters.