Archive for July, 2022

compassionate listening

July 27, 2022 4 comments

Father Richard shares his experience of how challenging it is to hear each other without agenda or defensiveness:

Can we take responsibility for the fact that we push people to polarized positions when we do not (or will not) stand in the compassionate middle? I think of how often, during my talks, someone raises a hand and says, “I disagree with what you just said.” Often, they did not hear or understand what I said, and they don’t have the humility to ask, in a non-accusatory way: “Did I hear you correctly in saying . . . ?” or “What do you mean when you say . . . ?” Of course, sometimes I am wrong, but such a mentality does not encourage dialogue or mutuality. Unfortunately, my response also often suffers because of the negative energy generated. I am then defensive or biting my tongue to control my own judgments or desire to attack back. The result is a half response, at best, because the environment is not safe and congenial.

Responses of this sort are usually full of assumptions: “I did understand you. I know your motivation. I know what you’re trying to say. Therefore, I actually have the need and right to attack you.” Normally, neither person grows or expands in such a context. The truth is not well served, because neither individual feels secure, respected, or connected. Unfortunately, this has become the state of our public discourse.

Fortunately, there will always be people who have the grace and the ability to engage in reflective listening, to ask, “Richard, did I understand what you were saying?” and repeat back to me their perception of what I said. Normally then I can clarify, or perhaps admit that I have communicated poorly or am, in fact, incorrect. When we can listen and respond in that way, each person is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve as children of God. Each person feels heard, and misunderstandings are clarified compassionately.

Unfortunately, that is not the way the ego likes to work. Opposition gives us a sense of standing for something, a false sense of independence, power, and control. Compassion and humility don’t give us a sense of control or psychic comfort. We have to be willing to let go of our moral high ground and hear the truth that the other person may be speaking, even if it is only ten percent of what they are saying. Compassion and dialogue are essentially vulnerable positions. If we are into control and predictability, we will seldom descend into the vulnerability of undefended listening or the scariness of dialogue. If we are incapable of hearing others, we will also be incapable of hearing God. If we spend all day controlling and blocking others, why would we change when we kneel to pray?

—Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2001, 2020), 56–57.

You might have to read this more than once. There’s a lot going on in this teaching. The Body of Christ could use a serious download in this area. I’m certain I need it as much as the next person. There’s no easy in this. —MDP

Categories: Uncategorized

choice and love

July 14, 2022 4 comments

As many mystics and saints throughout history have said, God created because God needed something to love beyond the internal love of the Trinity. And then, to take this one step further, God created humans so that one species could love God back freely. Robots cannot love. Trees cannot love consciously, at least in the way we understand consciousness. Now set this parallel to your relationship with your own children. Your fondest desire, maybe at an unconscious level, if you consciously conceived a child, was to bring forth a love object. “I want to love this child in every way I can, and even hope that this child will love me in return. And the way I love them, paradoxically, becomes their empowerment to love me back. Now apply this pattern to God and us.

I think this is why the reproductive process is given to us in this unique and special way, precisely so that we can experience the reciprocal character of love. God is creating an object of love that God can totally give himself to, so that eventually we will be capable of freely loving God back in the same way. Humans are like two-way mirrors, both receiving and reflecting. Humans are like tuning forks that pick up a tone and hand it on as resonance.

+Adapted from The Cosmic Christ, Richard Rohr OFM

This is another way of understanding why freewill is so important to humanity. God continues to risk and trust us to choose (for ourselves) God… to serve God… to love God. Without freewill… any love  of God (even ours) is worthless and ultimately meaningless. Frankly, without choice… it’s something else altogether. —MDP

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