Archive for November, 2016

Deep Listening

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Three weeks ago today I learned the result of the U.S. Presidential election.  I was devastated.  My candidate had lost, and to someone I thought was dangerous for my country and the world.

My stomach in knots, I talked with a friend and had a good cry.  I turned to wise leaders for a way forward.  Still wrestling with my emotions, I sought words of guidance and hope.

I found those words of guidance and hope in several places: Constance Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Warren, Cynthia Bourgeault, and a colleague at work.  While the importance of standing up for those who are vulnerable in this present climate was reinforced, I also learned the importance of listening.  And I learned the importance of humility.

For the past three weeks, I have been seeking to live into this wisdom.  It’s harder than I thought it would be. It’s hard to listen.  It’s hard to see self-righteousness in myself, and to let it go.  It’s hard to stand up for what I believe in the face of opposition.

The words of Steve Garnaas-Holmes resonate with me, as he reflects on how to turn swords into plowshares post-election:

“I bear them into conversations, my swords.
I hide them in my dark.
I launch them at the news, these spears.

Find them among me, God of Peace. Take them:
my bitterness, my defensiveness, my need to win.
Find the hidden swords, the secret spears I cling to.

Make them red hot in the furnace of your forgiveness.
Hold them in the tongs of your truth.
Beat them with the hammer of your love.

Take the hurt I mean to project, the defeat I wish others.
Free me of the swagger of hurtfulness.
Bend my righteous little swords into tools of life.

Let me stand before enemies with pure love,
prepared to break soil, to prune branches,
to do the hard work of growing peace.

For I will need stout tools to work this rough land well,
to bring fruits of justice out of this rocky earth,
to tend the muscular trees of mercy.”

The diversity in our world is a gift.  We see it in nature.  Can we see it in one another?  Because of our diversity of experiences, we can learn from one another.  As Quakers believe, no one person holds the entirety of truth.  Each person holds part of the truth, and we must listen to one another to allow the entire truth to emerge. In a diverse nation, different people experience life differently, and these life experiences shape political viewpoints.  Can we get beneath the political views to hear one another’s experiences?  Can I ask others, regardless of their political views, “What were your hopes when you voted for the candidate of your choice?  What are your hopes now?  What were your fears, and what are your fears now?”   And once I ask, can I listen deeply, really listen with curiosity, to the heart of the person speaking to me?

I know that there is much for me to learn in the weeks and months and four years ahead.  And, more importantly, there is much for me to practice.  John Woolman, an eighteenth-century American Quaker, serves as a role model for me here.  As Woolman traveled the American colonies speaking out against slavery, he both stood strong in his beliefs and at the same time listened respectfully to others’ points of view.  He exhibited both great strength and great humility.  How can I go deep and find that place of spiritual grounding that allows me to practice both strength and humility in these perilous times?