I saw something the other day posted on a friend’s facebook page. I see all sorts of things posted by friends and relatives. Most of the time, I browse social media in order to keep updated on the lives of those friends and relatives. But every once in a while there is a post or a meme that just reaches off the screen and grabs my attention. This time it was a simple meme: The Biggest Communication Problem Is We Do Not Listen To Understand…We Listen to Reply.

The Biggest Communication Problem Is We Do Not Listen To Understand…We Listen to Reply.

That type of communication isn’t beneficial for any of the parties involved in the conversation, whether it is in personal relationships, political rhetoric or religious discussion. Listening, actively listening, takes patience, requires silence, shows concern and expresses respect for the other party in the conversation. All too often we enter a conversation with good intentions, but end up more concerned with making our own point(s) known without really considering the words to which we are theoretically listening. We see it in our own personal relationships as well as those of our family and friends. It is the predominant form of political rhetoric and discourse. Conversations about religion are fraught with disrespect and even bullying because people are so afraid of being wrong that they resort to absolute certainty in all things of faith. Why is there so much hatred, discord, and intolerance in our society? It may have something to do with our fears, our refusal to listen and our desire to always be certain of our opinions and beliefs.

Not long after seeing the meme, I read a post by a clergy colleague who while in line at the convenience store when he noticed a man in front of him who was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with Nazi SS symbols. Being the son of a mixed marriage (Jewish and Christian) raised concern for him at seeing such a brazen display in America. After all, many of our parents and grandparents fought a war involving the entire world so that the Nazi threat would not complete its attempt to rule Europe while exterminating the Jewish people and others considered undesirable. I appreciated his concern. Some others took exception to his words, even going so far as to defend the Nazi ideology. Talk about not listening to real concerns about a real issue. Sadly, one of the responders said that she would not let anyone change her opinion. So even if the evidence shows that you are in the wrong, or if a friend raises legitimate concerns with which you disagree, or if you have to be absolutely certain that the earth is, say, FLAT, you will hold on to your opinion. Period. Really?