Listening

There is a common human behavior that, when I do it, frustrates me more than anything else I do. If you think you don’t do it, you probably do. Almost everyone on the planet does this, from little kids to old people.

When someone makes a statement that challenge one of our beliefs, our first impulse is to defend ourselves. Yeah, I know, you think you don’t do it. Because it’s not always audible, it can be completely silent. I’ll give two examples.

First, the silence:

When I left my ex, all the people, and I mean ALL the people in our Sunday School class stopped talking to me. They avoided me like the plague if they saw me coming, they would do anything to get out of even saying “hello.”

I did something that was in diametric opposition to their fast-held belief that you can absolutely never, ever get a divorce. Your spouse can try to kill you, your spouse can murder your children, doesn’t matter, you can’t get divorced. As a result, they argued against my new position by using silence and shunning. Cults have long known this is an effective strategy and they all use it, even those that think they are not cults, like the Baptists and the Calvinists.

Now, for the spoken:

I have been sick for a week, I did not plan to participate much in my Lit class because of that and because being so sick and in so much pain for the entire week had led me to only be able to read 13 of the 30 chapters we were supposed to have read. (It’s the Tao Te Ching–don’t freak out about the high numbers.) When I don’t come to class prepared, I don’t feel that I should participate in the discussion.

Enter my professor: A great guy who really knows his stuff and, most importantly in a class like this, knows how to get people thinking and discussing, while at the same time keeping us all from killing each other.

So, in reference to something in the text which I haven’t read yet, the professor asks, in a tone I perceive as derogatory, if anyone truly examines themselves. Does anyone sit down and think through what they say and what they do and why? Well, for some unknown reason, them was fightin’ words to me.

But, why? Why should they be? Why not consider why he asked and why he asked the way he asked and think through it before reacting? So, my answer is obviously yes, but the way I answered and the reason I answered raises more questions.

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