This thing happens to me sometimes where I wake up deaf in my right ear.
It’s a strange occurrence where, though I use those freaky earwax candles that you light on fire to keep excess wax at bay, I end up with tiny amounts of wax stuck right to my eardrum. I can’t hear ANYTHING out of that ear until I go see the doc and get it removed.
It happened to me just a couple days ago, and it was a bit embarrassing. I couldn’t hear most of what my family said to me all morning, even though my left ear was totally clear. I went to the Minute Clinic at a local CVS. When I walked in, an employee greeted me, but I couldn’t tell where her faint “hello” was coming from. She kept on greeting me as I looked around and around, but I never did see her. I walked to the back of the store and checked in at the electronic kiosk. I stood to the side as I waited to be called back. Soon enough, the doctor came out and walked right in front of me, obviously a little annoyed that she had to come all the way out of the exam room to get me. She had been calling me in…I just couldn’t hear her.
All of this made me think that being deaf in one ear is pretty close to just being deaf period. We were made with two ears, not so we’ll have an extra when one goes out; but because we need both to hear correctly.
Go with me to a different subject entirely. I promise I’ll connect the dots.
I know you’ve been watching the insanity…your friends and family ripping each other apart over issues like mask wearing and racism. Heated, angry words are being thrown around as easily as we used to throw around funny memes. The division between people seems to deepen with every Facebook post.
I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, that the majority memes, videos, and articles we are reading and sharing around are overwhelmingly divisive. It’s hard to know what to even believe anymore…everything seems to have a slant of some kind. I’ve found myself wondering where the peacemakers are. Where are the unifiers? Whatever happened to, “United, we stand. Divided, we fall”?
I had a hunch. It sounded something like this:
“We are all so very passionately divided right now on so many issues. I’ll bet that, deep down, we’re all actually worried about the very same things.”
I surveyed 70 people…some friends, some strangers. I asked one question:
“What are you most worried about in our nation’s current state?”
I gave survey participants the following options, along with the option to select “other” and fill in their own answer:
- My/my family’s safety
- My voice won’t be heard
- My way of life will be/is being negatively impacted
- I will be made to do things I don’t believe in
- People whom I do not wish to come into power will come into power
- Nothing will change after the protests are all over
- I won’t be able to rebuild my life after so much chaos
- Our country will uphold values with which I disagree
- Innocent people will suffer/are suffering
Here are the results:
Only 2 people wrote in their answers, and they were quite thoughtful.
As you can see, 71% of the participants expressed concern over 3 main issues, in the following order:
- The suffering of innocent people
- Their own safety, or that of their family
- Nothing will change after the protests are over
What does this tell us?
It tells us that the person I am heatedly arguing with most likely shares my concerns. It tells us that it is highly likely that the person who keeps sharing those memes that just grate on me is likely fearful that nothing will change after this is all over…and it will have all been for nothing. It tells us that, though we may disagree on the mode by which the major issues we currently face ought to be addressed, we agree on the essentials. We ALL want to end needless suffering. We ALL want to ensure the safety of our families. We ALL are desperate for change.
Like me, I am sure you have had ample opportunity to listen to people with very different viewpoints than you lately. I’ll bet you’ve been surprised to find how seemingly angry or even frantic your friends have been about certain issues. I guarantee you’ve run into ideas that have struck you as completely outlandish and unreasonable. So here’s my question…to myself and to all of you:
Are we willing to listen with both ears?
Am I only willing to listen to and consider viewpoints of people who agree with me? Am I dismissing information that runs counter to my current ideas? Do I believe that my experience of life in this world is the only valid one? If so, I’m listening with only one ear. Listening with one ear means I’m half deaf. And as I said before, half deaf is pretty close to deaf.
A half-deaf person notices less, experiences less, understands less of what is happening around them. Trust me…I know. Physically and figuratively.
How can we open up that other ear? I think our survey results may help direct us.
When someone expresses an idea that runs counter to my views and elicits an emotional response in me, I can:
- Assume the best about the other person. They are not out to ruin me, my family, or the world with their opinions. Their intentions are good. I would want them to assume the same about me.
- Realize that they are likely worried about those top 3 things listed above (and so am I….so, you know…I get it)
- Ask genuine questions to gain understanding of why they feel the way they do
- Genuinely consider their viewpoint, knowing that it really doesn’t threaten mine. I’m just seeking information and understanding.
- Find good points they’ve made and acknowledge them, even if I still disagree.
- Thank them for sharing their view
I’ve had a lot of conversations lately in which I did NOT employ these actions. They did not go well. I wish I could re-do them. However, when I have employed them, the result has been the achievement of greater understanding for both myself and the person I’m discussing things with, de-escalation of emotion, and sometimes, new friendships.
We have nothing to lose by opening up the other ear, and SO much to gain.
Additionally, my Christian brothers and sisters, we have such immense opportunity to love our neighbors well right now. Our willingness to be what love is…patient, kind, not arrogant, not self-seeking, unprovoked, and forgiving (from 1 Corinthians 13:4) will recommend Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs Him. This opportunity is far more valuable than any satisfaction we might get from “winning” an argument or posting a divisive meme.
We were made for more.
I’ll leave you with this scripture I’ve been pondering this week, also from 1 Corinthians 13. We can say and do all the right things, have all the right viewpoints and read all the right stuff…but if we don’t have love? We’ve got nothing. We fail.
On the other hand, as you know, love never fails.
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” -1 Corinthians 13:1-3
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7