Help me understand…

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

I’m guessing I’m not alone.  There are those with whom I share this planet who I just don’t like.

As it turns out they are mostly relatives. I call them my “accidental acquaintances”, people who are, like it or not, in my life.  In my peculiar American case, these are people who badmouth social programs, immigrants and climate-friendly measures, “good mouth” guns, deny election results and wear MAGA hats.  Their heroes can be seen wearing war paint and a horn headdress…on the steps of the US Capitol.  You get the idea….

Those are the ones I have trouble loving.  But I am Christian enough to want to…or at least no longer be consumed by that opposite of love.  Yours might look different, but admit it, you don’t love them.

An avid reader of Richard Rohr’s daily meditations, I found wisdom and comfort in the July 26 posting, “Courageous Listening,” from Sikh activist Valarie Kaur. 

Kaur understands the complicated nature of listening to those we see as our religious, cultural, and political “opponents” and the emotional toll it takes.

She writes:

It turns out it is extremely difficult to draw close to someone you find absolutely abhorrent. How do we listen to someone when their beliefs are disgusting? Or enraging? Or terrifying? . . . An invisible wall forms between us and them, a chasm that seems impossible to cross. We don’t even know why we should try to cross it. . . . In these moments, we can choose to remember that the goal of listening is not to feel empathy for our opponents, or validate their ideas, or even change their mind in the moment. Our goal is to understand them. . . .

[during listening…] I feel the ground beneath my feet. Am I safe? If so, I stay and slow my breath again, quiet my mind, and release the pressure that pushes me to defend my position. I try to wonder about this person’s story and the possible wound in them. I think of an earnest question and try to stay curious long enough to be changed by what I hear. Maybe, just maybe, my opponent will begin to wonder about me in return, ask me questions, and listen to my story. Maybe their views will start to break apart and new horizons will open in the process. . . . Then again, maybe not. It doesn’t matter as long as the primary goal of listening is to deepen my own understanding. Listening does not grant the other side legitimacy. It grants them humanity—and preserves our own.

Valarie Kaur

What an interesting take on confrontations with those “others”.  It might just not be about getting them to change their minds, but rather about making them and me human…and perhaps even able to, if not love them, maybe like them. Or at the very least, understand them.  After reading the post, I find I am even eager to try this method out. 

Dear Lord, grant me the gift of understanding.
Help me to understand the feelings of others,
the desires of others, the goals of others.
At the same time,
help me to understand myself in my actions and reactions.
Widen my vision beyond my own small world
to embrace with knowledge and love
the worlds of others.
Help me, Lord, to always see you at work in my own life
and in the lives of others.
Bless me with insight, acceptance and love
that is tempered by you.
Help me to understand, Lord.

The ACF Midweek Meditations
are written by a diverse group of our church members with the intention to seek God’s fingerprints in our lives. They range from somber to humorous and are inspired by all facets of live and faith. Written by ordinary people from all walks of life, they reflect a wide range of Christian backgrounds and spiritualities.

Each week’s text portrays the individual viewpoint of its author. They might not always resonate with everyone, and are not meant to be understood as representing the Anglican Church Freiburg as a whole. Yet, as a church that is aiming to ‘Build a Community of Grace’ we seek to practice learning from and listening to one another.

We pray that these humble ponderings add a small spark of blessing to your week.

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