in praise of listening
I’m learning that we are vastly layered beings, complex in our imperfections, which we are so quick to scorn and which we so quickly try to hide, avoid, or fix. But every imperfection is just as much a method of communicating with ourselves. Fear, I’ve learned, may seem like a basic inconvenience, but underneath it – as with so many things – there is a part of ourselves that is just trying to be seen, that just wants to communicate our struggle. Listening, I’ve learned, is most certainly not a weakness. Listening does not mean giving in. Listening means bearing witness. Listening means gathering wisdom and gently correcting what is inaccurate. But mostly, the act of listening is the act of being open-hearted. Listening is being curious. Can you imagine being curious without opening your heart? If you were to ask me what I love about myself or how I would describe myself, that would be it: I have an open heart and a curious mind.
And those are my greatest tools, the only things I really need because they can create moments of bravery and they can cultivate an attitude of kindness. It’s the opposite – a closed mind and a closed heart – that breed fear and intolerance and that absolutely stunt our growth. It’s not what I need, and the world certainly needs no more of it. But what makes openness such a brave, impossible thing is the vulnerability behind it. And vulnerability is often something we have to relearn. We mistakenly believe vulnerability is the opposite of strength when in reality vulnerability is the threshold we all must cross in order to be truly strong, truly brave.
Open hearts, curious minds – not just with others, but with ourselves.