I feel myself sounding like a broken record sometimes lately but the prompts are everywhere. Today it was Joan Chittister, in her book Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, who took up the importance of listening to one another – really, deeply listening. She says the following in Chapter Two, Listening: The Key to Spiritual Growth.
Not to listen then, is not to grow. but more than that, to be unable to listen is to be unable to give as well. It is easy to know what is good for someone else. It is difficult to listen to them and let them define themselves…It takes a lot of listening to hear the needs of those around us before they even speak them. But there is no good human community without it. Listening and love are clearly of a piece. (pp. 18-19)
It is that last sentence that brings the crux of the issue to light. The lesson there calls me to assume nothing about another person unless s/he has revealed the pertinent information to me. A good exercise would be to think of persons whom I know well and ask myself questions about their likes and dislikes to see if I can answer for certain (things like foods, types of music, exercise choices – even colors…simple things) and then ask them for their answers. This would be most interesting, I think, if asking those with whom we share life on a regular basis, especially people that we love. We might be surprised about how people have grown and changed without our even noticing. Just a thought…another practice of conscious loving, this one closer to home.