Listening

“There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.”
– Simon Sinek

I typically get a laugh when I say that I do my best work by accident, but as an inveterate planner it is stated more as confession than humor. Regardless, it is true.

The monthly interfaith conversation with law students that we host in our condo is a prime example. I launched the group just over three years ago with distinct goals: (i) make sure our Christian law school really is welcoming to students from all faiths; and (ii) reduce my ignorance that periodically and unwittingly creates difficulty for certain faith groups, e.g., scheduling events during important religious holidays.

I think I also hoped for great conversations but had no idea that this interfaith effort would turn into one of the best things in my life.

October’s rendition was fantastic. The official conversation topic as decided by the student leaders was, “How does your ‘birth religion’ differ or accord with your personal feelings of religious experience (i.e., were you born into your religion, or did some thing or event compel your faith)?” I expected an interesting discussion but did not anticipate such moving and personal stories as were shared from traditions including Atheism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and many flavors of Christianity. It was one of those occasions when you realize that you are honored just to be there. It was a sacred space.

Although less emotional than the rest, I took a turn at answering the question. Although I am still associated with my “birth religion,” a major personal turning point occurred as a young adult when I first interacted with those from religious groups different from my own. This experience launched me on a trajectory that is currently exemplified by the very interfaith conversation that prompted my sharing.

On my best days, what changed in me was the development of intellectual humility. I have (ironically) learned that there is so much that I do not know, and what I do “know” often turns out to be wrong. That would have been a terrifying thought for Growing Up Me, but today I find it to be liberating and a great comfort.

Homogeneity is both seductive and intoxicating, but I have discovered that learning to listen to diverse voices has increased my ability to understand and respect and love. This has made me a better person, and my life is fuller.

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