I Believe in Listening…

Marion - Columbia, South Carolina
Entered on January 21, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in listening…

For most of my life, I did not listen well.

Members of the Aldridge clan, it has been observed, will talk to a fence post. It is good if you will listen to us, but the truth is, we will talk whether you listen or not. To make matters worse, I come from a religious tradition that emphasizes talking. Our scripture and our hymns instruct us to “Go and Tell,” to preach, to proclaim, to share, and to sermonize.

Intuitively, I knew I would be a pretty sorry husband if I never listened to my wife. I would be a lousy dad if I never paid attention to my daughters.

But for some reason I was slow to understand that I was a negligent and careless citizen of our world when I did not listen to voices and opinions that were strange to my ears. If I ignore what others have to say, if I disregard the voices of people who do not look or talk or think like me, then I am less than I might be. And I diminish the people I overlook.

Listening, I learned, was better than lecturing.

Usually, the most loving thing I can do for someone is to listen to them. Too many times I have tried to fix another person’s problem before I heard even half their story. I’m glad jurors aren’t allowed to pronounce a verdict after hearing only the opening argument from one lawyer!

By listening, I discovered worlds I knew nothing about, worlds that can be weird, exciting, interesting and stimulating, sometimes right next door. I began paying attention to what was previously unknown to me, driving down dirt roads I had never driven on before, riding public transportation I had never before taken, eating exotic foods at restaurants I had previously ignored, engaging in conversations that were out of my comfort zone.

I am a different and better person because I learned to listen. My mind is more elastic. My heart is more open. My spirit has been renewed.

That is a story worth telling!