Thursday, April 19, 2012

Listening at it’s best

Lately I’ve been thinking more about how tough it is to really listen. Maybe you can relate to this too. What got me started was an article I read in the Feb 13, 2012 issue of the America magazine entitled, “Vatican II at 50” by Richard Gaillardetz. Gaillardetz focused on Conversation starters: Dialog and Deliberation during Vatican II. He remarked that one of the dynamic characteristics of Vatican II dialogs was humble learning.

According to Gaillardetz, Vatican II reminded us that all disciples of Jesus are lifelong learners. And that this is as true for the pope as it is for children preparing for first Communion. And research has shown us that the greatest barrier to listening is, “having your mind so steadfastly made up that there is no room for dialog, no room for 'being a student' ” in the presence of someone who thinks differently than I. Christ was only impatient toward those who were arrogant in their certitude.

I cringe when I think of how often I have my response ready for anyone who disagrees with me on a given topic, even before they have had a chance to tell me why they value certain aspects of their lived-truths on this same topic. I can hardly ever stop my chain-of-thoughts unless I figure out a way to really be quiet long enough to take in what they are trying to tell me.

So far, the only ear-opening behavior I have found to learn from others, is to “Sit still, be quiet, and then ask them to give me an example of what leads them to value their opinion on the topic at hand." Often their example provides ample room for dialog that is both humbling and open.

I’m here to confess that I fail at this oftener than I succeed. That doesn’t keep me from continuing to try to hang out with others who think differently than I, so that my life-long-learning-lens can include an expanded view of unfolding lived-truths. I certainly know the safety I feel when I have been with someone who respectfully provided me the time and space to be- honest-out-loud in their presence.


  1. WOW! A great reflection! Listen can quiet the mind and expand the agenda. Thank you S Mary Rachel for sharing.

  2. Thank you so much for your insight. I certainly have a lot to learn about being open to listen to others, but I am learning.
    I have just made my final Oblation as a benedictine Oblate, so to learn to really listen has become fundamental to me.
    Saint Benedict was a very wise man.

    God bless... Toolah.