Two Ears & One Mouth: Discovering Hope in Listening
When I was a kid, I had a teacher sit me down to discuss my inability to keep my mouth shut during class. "You have two ears and one mouth," she told me then. "That means you need to listen twice as much as you speak."
I remember thinking that I was being asked to listen for a lot longer than half of the time I was speaking, but (for once) I decided to keep my thoughts to myself.
I do like to talk, though. That hasn't changed a bit. It's my way of shaping and re-shaping what I'm thinking. I like to think that to hear my thoughts and ideas spoken out loud allows me to weigh them against what others are thinking and saying in response.
So I find myself talking a lot---just like when I was a kid. But the flaw in my whole process is that when I am talking, no one else can, which means I'm more often than not unable to really measure my ideas through the responses of others.
I feel like our inability to hear one another is one of the most pressing crises of our time. Far too many of us engage in conversations with other people, but our minds are already made up, our intentions set, our arguments planned long before we come to the table to talk.
And even when we are "listening" we typically are merely waiting for a pause to interject our own thoughts.
If we are going to see real healing and understanding between people in our divided and fractured society, we are going to have to "do the math" when it comes to listening as opposed to speaking. We need to hear each other.
Elie Wiesel once said:
When two people come together to listen, to learn from each other, there is hope. This is where the humanity begins, where peace begins, where dignity begins: in a small gesture of respect, in listening.
Jesus would often begin his teachings by saying, "Anyone who has ears, listen up."
So let the words of Jesus guide you today as you move through your life. When you feel compelled to speak first, let his words lead you to listen instead. Listen. Learn. Find hope and humanity.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.