The title of Adam McHugh’s book says it all: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction. McHugh, an ordained minister and spiritual director writes about the state of listening in our society and how we need to get better at it:
“We speak volumes, but we listen in snippets… we find ourselves building lives that shelter us from having to truly listen. We may move into churches and neighborhoods full of people whose views parallel our own, avoiding the dissonance created by contrasting voices by constructing theological and social echo chambers. We crystalize our beliefs and cease to ask questions. The great hope of the internet has been that dialogue will prevail, that people with different theologies, worldviews and politics will log in to learn, grow and communicate with those who disagree with them. Yet it would seem that social media has helped people connect with like-minded people, and the unfortunate consequence has been the intensifying and radicalizing of beliefs and the deeper entrenchment of people’s beliefs. We settle into our own little truth corners…
“Therapists I know say that many of their clients meet with them simply because they are not being listened to in their most important relationships. Without diminishing the value of professional therapy, I would argue that the fact that we pay millions of dollars annually for people to listen to us indicates our poverty in this arena. Everyone is talking, but so few people are truly hear.”
Jesus in today’s Gospel asks us to focus on how we hear. It is to be aware that God may be present in the voices, and words, of those around us; those we meet in life.
We need to be open to the voices of those who challenge us to move from our own comfortable ideologies, our own places of comfortable thinking.
We need to move beyond listening only to those who agree with us or who tell us what we want to hear. We need to avoid retreating into our own ideologies, philosophies, theologies, and politics. For these can move us into a place of extremes where we can become deaf to the truth, and to the voice of Jesus.
In the words of one author, “May we turn off the noise machines in the background of our lives to hear the voice of God.”
Take care then how you listen.
Image: “Listen” by ky_olsen is licensed under CC BY 2.0.