A certain former TV hearthrob made some comments last week that have ignited a fire storm of criticism. I’m not going to mention who it was (because most of you probably know – and I’ll bet more than half of you had a crush on him at some point) or what he said (because that’s not what this post is ultimately about), but I will say it’s been equal parts amusing and sad for me to watch the reaction play out online.
On and on the dialogue runs, everyone shout-typing their view at each other SOMETIMES WITH CAPS because as we all know, caps are a super effective tool for getting a point across online.
And all I can think as I read posts and listen to radio soundbites of the interview is, “I wish we could all listen to one another with Grace.”
We’ve talked a lot about Grace over here the last few months. I’m learning what Grace is all over again – not the lofty concept that floats over you in church like an invisible shield of protection, but real, true Grace. The Grace that was given to us when Christ laid Himself bare on a tree. The Grace that is given to me every moment of every day by people around me. The Grace that we all claim to long for but are so slow to pass on.
I’ve been working hard on speaking Grace in the last few months. It doesn’t always come naturally to me. But watching the reaction to this actor’s comment has revealed another area in me that needs tending – listening with Grace.
If we can speak Grace but not listen with it, our words mean nothing. We can spew pithy claims about love and acceptance, but if we refuse to listen and hear why someone else believes what they do then what good are our words? They mean nothing. Grace cannot simply be spoken – it must also be displayed.
And I don’t mean this to only apply to evangelical Christians and conservatives. We all need to work on listening more gracefully. We toss around the word “tolerance” like a mantra and demand it from one another with zeal, but the fact of the matter is I don’t want to tolerate you…and I don’t want you to tolerate me. That sounds so…sterile.
I want to love you and I want you to love me. Even if we disagree.
I say this with full understanding that it’s easier to listen gracefully when someone is speaking gracefully. But even if someone is spouting off a load of nonsense (and there are plenty of those folks in the media), what if we took a few seconds to weed through our anger and try and make sense of what they’re saying from their world view and not our own?
What if we changed our filters?
Instead of screaming about our First Amendment right to speak our minds, what if we calmly asked others to explain what’s on their minds? It may not change what we believe and it probably won’t change what they believe but could we, perhaps, find a bit of common ground on which to stand together?
Idealistic? Perhaps. But not unworthy of a bit of effort…
If you want an example, read Shaun’s last post in his Cross-Shaped series about his discussions with the students at Eastern Mennonite University (perhaps one of the best series of posts I’ve ever read on the internet). The post drips with Grace not because Shaun got his message across and sparked a Southern tent revival amongst the students but rather because he listened to them. He didn’t agree with them on everything and they didn’t agree with him on everything, but in the end there was common ground on which they could together stand.
And they all grew a little.
There are a lot of hot button issues to navigate and opinions to share, especially leading into this fall. But…can we listen to each other in the process? Gracefully listen with not just a willingness to tolerate, but perhaps a desire to grow, understand, love and, if the situation warrants it, maybe even change?
(For a great and humerous post on why all us 30-somethings love talking about Grace, visit Jessica’s site. Love it.)