Listening to our Opposites


Listening, real in depth listening, is never easy. But it can be easier with those that are like us, those that share our same preferences whether political, religious, hobbies, whatever. How about listening to those that are opposite to us? Those that have completely different backgrounds, journeys of life, tastes and ambitions.

In a week that was horrific here in the USA, with two hate related shootings and dud bombs fortunately unexploded yet leaving fear in their path, a largely unknown man passed away in rural Montana. His name was Eugene Peterson, a Pastor, teacher, writer, and authentically courageous human being. I felt very sad when I found out he died, partly because we need him now more than ever. You see, Eugene would often meet with people that were opposite to him. And then he would listen. (See my post last week about his life titled “A Long and Faithful Servant-Walk”).

One of the most well known examples is when he met with the U2 mega-star Bono a couple of years ago at Eugene’s home in Montana. I wrote briefly about this last week, and if you haven’t seen the youtube video of their conversation please do so.

This conversation, discussing both men’s love for the Psalms, is so real, so in depth, yet conducted by two extremely different people. Yet they were not afraid to talk to each other, to their opposite. I just read yesterday that on the weekend, Bono dedicated one of his songs at a U2 concert in London to Eugene Peterson. It is only in talking to our opposites that we will truly gain understanding. Talking to people like us is like speaking to the mirror, and we generally will not learn anything except how truly ugly we may actually be.(or in some of your cases, truly handsome or beautiful.)

I write this post with just over one week to go before the US mid-term elections. It is a season filled with much hate, and listening is hard to find. I shudder to open Facebook these days, and actually blocked someone today that puts out endless political propaganda for their particular political preferences.

So here’s my challenge to you. Find one person that you know genuinely believes something different to you. Someone who may be an opposite to you in some way. Maybe in their story, in their faith journey, in their politics. And then genuinely try to listen to the other person before interrupting. Yet here’s the thing, it will probably not be possible to do this over social media. You will need to do it face to face. Social media does not lend itself to listening. Only in expressing your opinions to people that are generally thinking the same as you.

Listen to your opposite today. What did you learn? It’s far more stimulating than staring in the mirror all day.

3 thoughts on “Listening to our Opposites

  1. Nice article sir. I think our whole world and even in our Christian faith we are being living through the lens of a dualistic thinking.
    In the words of Father Richard Rohr, he says – “The dualistic mind is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, smart/stupid, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. Dualistic thinking works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or the immense subtlety of actual personal experience. Most of us settle for quick and easy answers instead of any deep perception, which we leave to poets, philosophers, and prophets. Yet depth and breadth of perception should be the primary arena for all authentic religion. How else could we possibly search for God?” .

    Liked by 1 person

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