Searching For Relevance

Listen First, Love Later

February 17, 2017

Rev. Dr. Guillermo Márquez-Sterling

In high schools across the nation students are learning about the importance of public speaking.  It is considered to be one of the most important skills a young person is to develop.  I disagree.  I think people are very good at speaking their mind and expressing their opinions. As a matter of fact, I think we have too much of it. What we really need is for people to learn how to listen.

Listening is a skill that doesn’t happen all on its own. Some people have the introvert personality trait and we tend to think they listen more because they speak less. The reality is that just because someone is not speaking, it doesn’t mean he/she is listening. Listening requires effort and more importantly it also requires setting aside judgment. Listening starts with being fully present. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But all too often we may hear what’s being said but our minds are elsewhere.

If your own mind is messy with distraction, it makes listening much more challenging. There’s nothing more obvious than someone who isn’t paying full attention when you speak.

Empathy, connection, acceptance, basic needs required for a relationship, all start with listening. To truly listen to someone, we need to refrain from judgment. It is the precursor to love. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, a challenge for all time and all people. Yet, I will say that loving your neighbor is not possible if we don’t listen first. During these highly charged times, more people are screaming at each other, at the top of their lungs. The dissonance is deafening, leading to the question: How can we love our neighbor when we can’t even listen to our neighbor?

So, let’s do something about it. Let’s listen without judging, and in so doing create the conditions necessary for a loving community.  Let’s model in our church community how to dialogue and listen to each other in ways that help build the conditions for a loving community. Let’s listen first, trusting in God that love will eventually follow.