I am learning to listen. Yes, I am forty years old, but I am just now understanding what it means to listen. As I was growing up, I thought I knew what it meant to listen. I could listen to my parents in order to stay out of trouble. I could listen to my teachers in order to pass tests. But, I’m just now learning to truly listen.
What I mean is this: I am finally learning what it means to listen to someone in order to understand them. This is different (I am learning) from listening to someone in order to refute them or argue with them. Instead, I am learning to listen to what someone is saying so that I can better understand and know that person.
A news article that has helped me in this is one that I read on Yahoo called “Christians and atheists start a calmer dialogue” (don’t stop at the first few paragraphs – you must read past those first paragraphs to get to the real story). Consider this paragraph toward the end of the article:
Pastor Wyman has been reaching out to non-Christians in Salem, and particularly to the large neopagan community here (attracted, no doubt, by Salem’s identification with witchcraft in Colonial times). His stereotypes about witches were often wrong, he says. Having formed respectful relationships, he’s now being asked to come to pagan events to speak about Christian perspectives.
Notice that Phil Wyman has developed “respectful relationships” with unbelievers, and now those same unbelievers are asked him to speak at their conferences. It sounds like Mr. Wyman has learned to listen.