resolving to listen

Yesterday, I shared the results of my 2013 resolutions, as well as my new resolutions for 2014. Today, inspired by the OneWord365 campaign, I’m sharing my word that I hope will describe 2014 well. I deviate from their mission a little in that I’m still a fan of resolutions, but I love the idea of focusing in on one word.

In 2014, I want to listen. It’s timely, for me. Social media is wonderful in many ways: it’s a fairly easy venue to express creativity, it connects us to like-minded people, and it helps us know we’re not alone, particularly during a shift where we feel less connected to a specific community than we once did. I believe that, in many ways, social media saved my faith. However, for all its good qualities, it doesn’t seem to encourage much listening.

Everybody find your tribe, everybody defend your tribe, everybody talk about why your tribe is the best. From what I’ve seen, this could be the slogan of the social internet. It’s not all bad, either: it feels good to belong to something,  and if I’ve chosen a tribe, it’s probably because those within hold the same things to be precious.

But sometimes, one tribe decides that another tribe is stupid, or wrong, or oblivious, and the arrows go flying.

I was going to give some specific examples, but we can probably all think of plenty without help, and I certainly don’t want this post to be about some hot-button issue instead of what it’s supposed to be about. Can we just pause for a collective sigh, though? Is anyone else tired of it? I am.

And so, I resolve to listen, especially when it comes to social media, but in person as well. I’ll voice my opinion when it’s warranted, but I hope that it’s only ever with a healthy dose of humility.

When I hear a statement and immediately think that’s outrageous! I’ll take a moment longer to listen. I’ll give people a chance to explain. I’ll do my best to assign positive intent, if at all possible. Then, and only then, I’ll offer my thoughts. My resolution to listen has nothing to do with timidity, but it is an attempt to resist the high of outrage.

And so, in the spirit of listening, I have a happy announcement to make.

Earlier this year, I asked a group of people ranging from acquaintances to close friends if they would consider writing a guest post here on the blog that described a “bread crumb” moment for them. Many of them responded; enough to host two guest posts a month here, starting tomorrow!

I have a confession to make, though: initially I only wanted to ask people who fall along the same political and theological lines that I do. It seemed like a risk otherwise: what would people want to say on MY blog? Would I censor it? Maybe I was setting myself up for incredibly awkward situations. And then I felt so, so convicted. It’s embarrassing to admit: I was thinking of asking people to share something quite intimate: a moment of spiritual clarity that was sacred to them, and then I was thinking of who might say the right sort of thing. Isn’t that the very thing, the very lack, that’s broken my heart; that almost drove me away from my faith?

I seemed to have forgotten, in my zeal for a particular tribe, that we have much to learn from each other. It was this realization, among others, that led me to choose listen as my word for 2014.

One of my favorite lines of literature comes from Jo March in Little Women. “I should have been a great many things,” she says, when someone notices one of her strengths and comments “You should have been a lawyer, Miss March.” She’s speaking mainly about opportunity, I think, but her words have another meaning. Each one of us already is a great many things, and we shouldn’t be defined solely by any tribe or affiliation. I’d like to take this year to remind myself of that, as often as possible.

And so, we’ll be hearing from people of faith with a broad range of views, because that is what Christianity actually looks like as a whole. I don’t know to what extent their views will influence what they choose to write about, and honestly I’m not expecting anything very controversial. It seems like a good way to practice listening, though. To practice not dismissing. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ, not to mention fellow humans, and I’m beyond excited to hear their stories and be reminded of all that we have in common.

Happy New Year to you! It’s a bit of a wild hope, but maybe this year we’ll listen better. Maybe we’ll hear each other.

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One response to “resolving to listen

  1. Listen is a great word. I, too, am thinking about choosing a word to focus on, while still making specific goals. I’ve done an internet/email fast on Sundays for a few years now, and it feels like such a relief to let all that go for a day each week. I’m not rigid about it, and with a smartphone, it’s easier to to “cheat.” But I mostly stick to it because I feel so much better when I do. And that’s one of my fave lit quotes, too : )

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