Once upon a time, what seems a lifetime ago, I was a news reporter. It was a job I loved for many reasons, but primarily I loved it because it was a means for me to gather information and then offer that information to others in hopes that it would have some meaning for them. Being a reporter was continuing education.
Every day I learned something new and I met some really incredible and interesting people who shared stories that have stayed with me. I met some famous and infamous people. I covered everything from mundane local government meetings to presidential debates to street festivals. And, I covered stories that were tragically sad like murders and car accidents and fires and things that change lives forever in not-so-good ways.
One of the skills being a reporter helped me to hone was the ability to hear voices and see perspectives that were not the ones that were the most obvious. I learned to listen for the voice in the room that was not being heard. I learned to see things that passing glances would not detect. I learned that there will always, always be more than one or two sides to a story.
I learned to look for and listen for those other sides because they matter. They matter a great deal. And, I’ve learned to take notice when pieces of a story are missing.
This isn’t always easy for most of us to do. We are pretty good when it comes to knowing our side of a story, our version of the truth. But, hearing another person’s side is not always what we want to dig into. Sometimes we can’t muster up what it takes to even scratch that surface. It takes energy, thought, and a certain amount of care to want to hear another person’s perspective, another person’s story. And, then there’s understanding, which takes even more effort, time, and discernment.
It’s hard to hear voices that don’t sound like ours. It’s hard to even want to hear something that sounds (to our ears) like noise–like something annoying, irritating, aggravating, uninteresting, unfiltered, uninformed, ill-conceived, trite, vitriolic, stupid, hateful, unkind, unfair, half-baked, or just plain boring.
It is easy to dismiss people and their voices when they don’t match-up with ours and those voices we actually like to hear. It’s easy to be okay with someone who says what we want to hear. But, with voices that don’t resonate, well, that’s not so easy. And, we don’t like it. So, many times we simply don’t even try.
Are all voices worth listening to? Well, now there’s a question! And, I’m not sure I have an answer. There are some voices that I am hard-pressed to want to hear for more than about five seconds. I have already heard them and don’t expect them to say anything new, different, or profound because in my way of thinking, they have proven to me they aren’t going to do that, no matter what the topic might be. But, I know others hear that same voice and think it comes from the most sane person on the planet. Which one of us is right? Which one of us is wrong? Neither? Both?
There are things I don’t necessarily want to hear, but are they things I need to hear? Is there any value that can be gleaned from them? Is there a lesson, even if the lesson means I have a better understanding of why I still don’t agree with or support whatever it is I just heard?
I have tried over the years to not watch or listen to the news, to avoid voices that I have never agreed with and it’s unlikely that I ever will. I have tried to have better filters and better ways of protecting myself from things and people who give me fits and just plain piss me off. I’m not really good at that, but one thing that I have also tried to do is seek out others voices.
I really want to hear voices that speak the truth. But, I want to hear voices that speak the truth from places of love. That doesn’t mean they have to be soft, whispery, gentle, tones, although I’d prefer that to yelling. But, I also know that sometimes voices need to shout the truth because for some folks (myself included) that is the only way it can be heard.
God’s voice can be a small, still voice or a voice like thunder. And, for me, that voice is the truth and I know it is a voice of love. It is a voice I have not always wanted to hear, but now seek it when I’m trying to listen to what others are saying. It’s a voice that allows me to discern rather than judge. It is a voice that commands me to listen from a place of love rather than from a place of fear. It is a voice that reminds me to listen and speak from places of kindness and compassion rather than from places that would offer neither. It is a voice that calms storms and offers peace when nothing else can.
I don’t believe we have to listen to hateful, cruel, damaging, or destructive voices for very long to know that they are not healthy. I have no expectation that anyone should subject themselves to that for one second longer than they might have to. God does not require us to be in relationship with folks who have wounded us. God asks us to forgive (for our sake perhaps more than for the other’s), but God has never required us to continue to subject ourselves to any form of abuse. That is not acceptable.
My hope is that in these days when there are many voices demanding to be heard that I will seek to try to listen, discern, and understand from places that allow for love and grace. That’s asking a lot, I know. I confess it will be hard for me and I will fail–often. But, I will try because I believe that’s a better way to be and live. And, I will pray that for more days than not, I can be a voice that speaks God’s truth of love from a place of love and with kindness and compassion.
I wish you peace….