I read somewhere this week, amongst the hundreds of posts I have scrolled through, that if I am not saying anything, then I am the problem. That my public neutrality on the issue makes me this or makes me that.
I felt those statements in my gut.
It’s not that I haven’t said anything. I have said many things to many people.
But I haven’t said anything publicly. I haven’t updated my status including hashtags or posted anything political on social media. I haven’t gotten into a single Facebook argument in the comment sections (I have read some pretty nasty ones though).
My social media ‘silence’ does not equal indifference. It does not mean I haven’t woken up and had tears streaming down my face whilst reading the news. It does not mean I don’t care.
Oh, how I care. Sometimes I feel as if I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I cry over injustice and I grieve for people that I have never even met. I care.
But I have been really busy doing something else besides posting about my opinion. I don’t think that speaking up for what you believe in is wrong, by any means. However, for me, in these moments, in this time of uncertainty and division and hatred and fear, hearing and understanding is my first priority.
So instead of speaking, I have been listening.
Because before I speak, if I choose to do so publicly, I want to understand. I am being careful and intentional with the words I do say. Not because I am scared to give my opinion or want to play it safe, but because words carry weight. Yes, words can heal, but the wrong ones can wound in deep and profound ways.
I don’t have a large following compared to many, but as a blogger and as someone who writes for anyone in the world to read, my words have impact. I have the responsibility and privilege to represent Jesus in what I say and what I write. I don’t want to give an emotional, biased opinion about something I do not fully understand. Right now, the right thing for me to do is listen.
Not the kind of listening that I tend to do SO much:
The “I’m texting someone but still mostly listening to what you’re saying because I’m nodding my head and saying ‘Mmhmm’ and ‘that’s funny’ every few lines.”
Or the kind where I have Netflix on in the background as I clean my room and partly listen to an episode of The Office and half heartedly attempt to organize the hot mess that is my living space.
I’m talking about real, active listening. The opposite of sitting idly and doing nothing. Listening with every intention to put that learning into action.
‘Whole Body listening’ is a teacher term that we use with students to encourage active participation and engagement. We teach that body language and position and eye contact are ways they can show they are listening and respecting the speaker.
These past few weeks, I have been Whole Body Listening.
I have been listening with my ears, in the literal sense. To radio interviews. Eavesdropping on conversations (sorry). To dialogue of people I know and trust. To friends. To strangers. To pastors. To people on the streets. I’ve chimed in on occasion, but I have done a lot of literal listening.
I’ve been listening with my eyes. I have been taking in everything. I have been scanning rooms and noticing people that maybe I wouldn’t have noticed before. I have been reading posts and articles and blogs to stay informed and in touch with the world. I’ve been reading the Bible to stay well fed and prepared.
I’ve been listening with my hands. I’m not one of those people that posts or broadcasts to the world when I do something kind for someone else. When I sacrifice or when I bless someone, it isn’t something I feel I should boast about, but these past few weeks I have put love into action more than ever. I have taken every single opportunity possible to go out of my way to love people extravagantly. In tiny ways, and in big ways.
I’ve been listening with my mouth. Although this sounds totally contradictory, I have been using my mouth to listen and learn. This is something I am not used to. Typically in the life of being me, I say an alarming amount of words. My boyfriend told me yesterday that he was worried I was going to explode because he knew I had so many things to say that I hadn’t said yet. Many times those words are about me and my thoughts, my opinions and my observations (lucky him). But I am trying hard to use my words to direct the focus onto others. I am asking follow-up questions that are meaningful and relate to what the other person is trying to express.
I’ve been listening with my head. I have thought logically and factually about everything going on. I’ve looked at these issues from every possible side and perspective. I’ve examined my own biases and looked at things from different angles.
I’ve been listening with my heart. I’ve been angry. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve been devastated. I’ve been confused. I’ve gone through the full spectrum of human emotions over this broken world.
I’ve been listening with my soul. I’ve prayed over this broken world. I’ve prayed and pleaded for specific people in my life and out of my life affected by sin and injustice. My soul physically aches for other’s pain.
My lack of speaking out on social media has nothing to do with indifference and everything to do with wanting to reach others in the most responsible and meaningful way. And for me, in this moment, I am doing the reaching in my every day life. I am living my heart out by being careful with my words and thoughtful with my actions.
My stomach has churned over the divisive arguments and the words used to intentionally hurt others.
Every word I say has the potential to inflict pain or to give life. Especially in this day and age of social media, words and intentions can be twisted, morphed and taken out of context. Even something well-meaning could be misconstrued and lead to scrutiny and division on the internet.
Besides my relationship with my Heavenly Father, there is nothing on planet Earth more important to me than the relationships I have with people.. All kinds of people from all walks of life. People that I love with a deep, profound love. Young and old. Rich and Poor. Black and White. English speaking and Spanish speaking. I would never, could never say something out of emotion or perhaps ignorance, and damage my relationship with those treasured ones.
So for now, I listen and I learn. I cry and I pray and I lift my hands to the only One who can fix this. The only One who can take this division and turn it into unity.
I’m listening in humility for ways I could have offended or hurt someone without even knowing.
I’m self-examining and society-examining and culture-examining.
So, no, I haven’t said anything on my Facebook status. But believe me, I’ve been busy out in real life, learning and seeking and listening, because if and when the time comes where the Lord calls me to state my opinion publicly, I want to be ready.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.