Years ago, during the recession, I stopped at a Tumbleweed in Brooks, KY, for lunch. Only one booth was occupied, and the manager seated me in the next booth. Four men spoke loudly about something political. One asked the others if they had seen what some elected official had done. His question caught my attention because it wasn’t true. Another said, “Well, if he did that then he is going to do…” and made up something that they all agreed was bad.
I recall that moment because I, too, am tempted to take short cuts in discourse. I, too often, think I know what someone will say or do and fail to give someone the opportunity to speak for themselves. Demonizing someone with opposing or different views is so easy. Loving those with different views is hard work and costs us comfort.
Truly listening requires a holding of our own convictions with open hands and minds. In my years as a chaplain, I learned that everyone had something to teach me if I would listen. There is so much that hurts people. We call these things evil. The question is “how do I expose evil without creating more evil, more polarization, more us vs. them thinking”? For me, this begins when I leave open the possibility of new understandings and relationships, when I check myself on my tendencies to judge and demonize. I have to ask myself, “Do I only love people who agree with me?” Life is easier that way, but that is not discipleship.