What if you were less quick to think someone is ridiculous, or that something they think, want, do, is ridiculous?
What would it be like to hear someone with respect, paying more attention to what they feel, their intentions and hopes, and less attention to how you judge their idea, choice, action?
Maybe what they’re thinking or doing isn’t as ridiculous as you think it is.
Maybe it is ridiculous — but maybe it doesn’t matter right now. Maybe you could give them a warning, good advice, assurance that they won’t feel this way about it tomorrow, a solid lecture on all the things wrong with their idea. Maybe there’s a place for that…
…after listening with respect, compassion, and attention.
Or maybe you’ll decide, after that kind of listening, that your lecture, right as it may be, may not have the desired effect, and that respectful listening would go much farther — perhaps toward your goal of correction, definitely toward the person’s growth and your relationship with them.
I have tended to be somewhat quick to judge things ridiculous — to feel contempt and scorn — to disapprove, silently or coldly or otherwise.
I would like to be quicker to assume positive intent. Quicker to respect that each person is doing the best they can in each moment.
I am a bit afraid that moving in that direction might make me more gullible, foolish, and naive, or even lead me to neglect important convictions, truths, values, boundaries, get me mixed up in relationships and situations that could be toxic or difficult or messy or whatever.
Then I think about middle school youth group, and the youth pastor (and volunteer staff) who spoke with me as if I were already a real person, not just an immature teen. Doubtless some of what he heard from me seemed ridiculous — surely he knew better about many things — but he listened with attention and respect, and I felt heard and respected, and it was like food for the heart and soul and spirit.
I think about my first experience with Montessori, and seeing the immense respect teachers showed for children and their ideas and desires.
I think about RIE, a parenting and childcare paradigm I learned about just a year or so ago, which respects babies — how many of us would have never thought to let a baby know, or ask, before picking her up, but what a lovely, respectful, and meaningful gesture to make. Takes a little more time and intention, but respecting people is worth that effort.
I think about Hand in Hand parenting, and other gentle / non-punitive parenting resources, and how they have helped me develop tools and skills for respecting my own child — seeing how this warm connection, kind attention, compassionate listening, has soaked into her and borne fruit in her, in me, and in our relationship. And the listening partnerships where I get to soak up the warm and respectful attention of another mom, and do the same for her.
I think about the little health experiment I have been doing, to see if going without wheat makes any difference in a few bothersome but seemingly minor health issues I have. I wasn’t sure what to do last Sunday at communion, and abstained. After midweek Bible study, rather embarrassed — thinking that most people would think this experiment of mine to be pretty ridiculous and another example of how I make my own life difficult and seem to enjoy creating problems for myself and take tiny little things (and myself) far too seriously — I asked our priest whether one could take the wine only. Not only did he not scoff at me or ask critical questions, he mentioned that if the experiment turns into a lifestyle change, he could get a gluten-free host for me.
To be received with respect and kindness, listened to with warm attention and compassion, is delicious. Delicious.
I want to do that for others more often.