Remember those silent observers who sat in the back of classrooms observing teachers? And remember how students would listen quietly to what is being taught, either waiting until the time for questions or raising their hands (not to interrupt, but to signal something they didn’t understand and needed clarification on)?
How much more effectively can evaluation and learning both take place in such an environment — as compared to an environment that is a flood of overreaction and debate. Even when we have questions or concerns, shouldn’t we listen ALL THE WAY THROUGH to see if our questions will be answered eventually? And isn’t our life daily an opportunity to learn and grow?
It seems easier in today’s age of trolling, disrespect, and sarcasm from so many internet “keyboards warriors” to see people tuned into a model of amplifying conflict through provocation and overreaction. Just look at conversations about masks on Facebook, for example, and you might be hard pressed to find people in that conversation who are genuinely seeking to listen, understand, consider alternative perspectives, respect one another, and provide gentle responses that promote understanding.
How often do we find ourselves handing over our peace to people and situations — that are, quite frankly, unworthy of stealing our peace?
And there is an approach even better than just maintaining our own inner peace in the midst of strife and division around us.
Have you ever been on a lake when there are a lot of boats actively moving around? Have you noticed how the wake of many boats moving in a small cove will cause a lot of waves that affect each other?
What if we weren’t just a lone ship who has all portholes secured from the waves and is sitting still, safe from sinking, but the waves are still rocking us wildly about — but if we could actually be part of the calm?
I’ve noticed something about lake life over my decades skiing, jetskiing, tubing, and boating. When people from the boats are smiling and waving at each other, they are usually not being disrespectful and disrupting others with their wake, nor are they as quick to grit their teeth and plan vengeance because another boat’s path impacted their intended direction.
Community vs “my way” is how I see it playing out on the lake. When a lake community is a “we” thing, it is usually a great day. But get a few folks out on the lake only thinking about themselves, being disrespectful to other boaters, and overreacting to others — and the lake can become very dangerous, very quickly. And the solution is never to “one up” the bad behavior into submission — the risk on the lake is way too high for that. But finding a peaceful way to welcome folks into the community and demonstrate courteous boasting practices and consideration for others on the lake can make a real difference.
This is true for so many areas of our lives. And it starts with being quick to listen, being slow to speak, and being slow to anger.
This may seem like a burdensome task list to follow if we realize how often our own selfish nature has had us facing down other people because we didn’t appreciate their behaviour, or circumstances because we didn’t like how they turned out. We might say things like, “Well, I’m just not a patient person” or “Why should I back down” etc. if we want to make it all about ourselves.
But a Christian who opposes such instruction, or who isn’t applying such things in their life daily, might want to ask themselves what is at the root of their getting caught up in things and overreacting emotionally. Could it be a lack of trust and surrender to God? Could it be that we forget that He is in control and has offered us opportunities to be the welcoming, listening, loving, supportive, gentle, kind servant to a world in need of a better way?
I find myself failing in this area quite regularly. I faced temptation even while doing this lesson and the things going on in my house around me were constantly interrupting me. But instead of letting my frustration well up and feed my normal, short response of “Daddy is doing his lesson” which means “everyone leave ne alone for a bit” — I took the time to listen to what my daughter had to share with me. It was a sweet gift idea for her mother’s upcoming birthday. No, it wasn’t an emergency, and yes, it could have waited. But what mattered to my daughter was that she was welcome, that she was heard, that she was seen, that she is loved, and that her daddy is here for her. I wonder how many times I have used various excuses to justify my not being quick to listen that were all about “me” and “my way”?
Lord, forgive me again today for my many shortcomings that lead me back to remembering the cross and your willing sacrifice for our benefit. Help my learning ands sharing to not just be mental and intellectual conjecture, but for my heart to be changed by your Word, and for my life to be more conformed to your perfect example. Thank you. Amen.