Thursday, February 2, 2017

Is anyone really listening?

     I had a psychology professor with an interesting reputation. The word was passed down from one class to the next. "Don't wear the color yellow. She hates that color." And "Every test is essay. If you want a passing grade on tests, you must find a way to add the phrase 'Every person needs to feel needed, necessary, important, accepted, loved and understood.' She loves it."
     I never wore yellow and evidently I used the phrase a lot because it is seared into my memory. I made an A in that course!
     Lately the phrase has popped into my thoughts a lot. As I observe what is taking place in our nation and what is constantly crossing social media, I'm burdened by all the anger I see. I ache when I witness people being hurt. I see people begging and sometimes demanding that others notice their worth and value. They are right. We should. And people are crying out that they want to be accepted and understood.
     I get that. I am no different. I want the same things.
     There seems to be one problem though. The art of listening appears to have fallen by the wayside. Lots of words are being spoken but no one is responding with questions so they can understand. No one is asking with sincerity, "Why do you believe this? What are personal life experiences that led you to feel this way?" No one is honestly saying, "Tell me more so I can learn more." 
     We can agree to disagree. But we need to do so with teachable spirits and kindness. And if the tables should turn, and someone should ask about our convictions, we need to be honest, raw and vulnerable. Not arrogant and self-righteous. 
     One more thought…we may have rights to our opinions. But if Jesus could lay down His rights as God and come to this earth to live with us, taking on the nature of a servant…if he could lay down His rights and humbly walk to the cross…(Philippians 2:5-8) then perhaps we can lay down our divisive comments. Perhaps we can lay down our opinions long enough to listen to others.
     One of the greatest joys we have in life is learning. But learning occurs through experiences and through listening. Conservatives need to listen to liberals. Liberals need to listen to conservatives. People of different races, ethnicities and genders need to listen to the struggles each face. 
     We can do better than we have been doing! Because behind every person's words and action lies a "little boy or girl" who just wants to know he is needed. She wants to know she is necessary and important. He wants to be accepted and loved. And she wants to be understood.

     Now…to practice what I have been preaching. I think mankind has another emotional need…and that is to feel safe. Maybe it is just a want but it feels like a need. I am confident that I am safe spiritually but I also want to feel physically safe and I want to feel emotionally safe with my loved ones. Perhaps this need is grounded in times when I found myself in dangerous circumstances or when I was hurt by people I thought were friends. Perhaps it resulted because of being ridiculed for expressing thoughts. 
     I can't imagine living in a perpetual state of fear. And even worse, fearing for the lives of my children. But I know that people do. When I rock my grandsons at bedtime, I think of the moms and dads around the world that are, at that very moment, frightened about the danger surrounding their little ones. They must crave safety. I don't know all the answers. Issues are far too complex and I have a limited amount of accessible facts but I do know the only true source of peace - even in the midst of danger - is Jesus. This is not a cheap platitude, it's truth. I know from experience. 
     I know that God doesn't promise there will not be danger in our lives but He does promise that He will walk with us in the midst of it. I believe that His grace is sufficient for every need we have. I believe it pours out in extra measure over those being persecuted for His name. I know that Jesus is the answer to our need for value, purpose, acceptance, love, understanding and safety.
      The mandate for those who follow Him and know His peace is to share this good news. Our world is desperate for peace!