Listening to understand

Selfishness is a disease that has become prevalent in our society to the point that it is encouraged and rewarded. It is so common in all our interactions that it could be seen as a necessary, built-in trait of humanity rather than a flaw, but it is an issue that poisons relationships. I have made many different friends with a wide variety of viewpoints here in college, and if there is one thing that I have figured out about myself, it is that I can be just as wrong as them, and they can be just as right as I think I am.

Self-centeredness might seem like a logical survival instinct, but at Northwestern, the need for relationships, community and being part of something bigger than ourselves is more important. This is something that is impossible to accomplish when our thoughts, actions, and entire mindset and worldview revolve around what benefits us and how we can improve our own lives. This idea blocks out any thought of truly helping others and only allows us to think about how our interactions might help us. As children of God and redeemed sinners sent out to transform the world, the most radical thing we can do is not to fit in with the world. I have been discovering at every turn that I am called to love unconditionally, forgive unquestioningly and be unafraid to do everything that Jesus demonstrated.

Unsurprisingly, I have also been subject to many outspoken opinions. For many, college is a major shifting point in thoughts, beliefs and ideas in how to live, far beyond anything like politics. The biggest reason for this shift is that we come across so many people that are different from ourselves who have been raised with their own set of beliefs. In the time that I have been here, the most valuable learning moments I have had were in listening to others outside of the classroom.

When we talk with others, our default mindset is to determine what to say next or to find out how what they say might affect us. The most valuable thing I have learned to do is listen and understand the other person, setting my own thoughts aside for a minute and hearing them. If we truly listen from someone else’s perspective, we can hear them in the way that we wish people would hear us. When we do this, we can truly show Christ’s unconditional love.

The next time you have a conversation with anyone about anything, I hope you will not just be thinking about what point you can bring up next. Do not just listen to the other person to understand how to refute their argument. Let the idea enter your mind that they have something just as important to say. If you’re not willing to understand them, why would they listen to you? As you walk around campus, as you’re in class discussions, as you sit in chapel, remember how different we are as redeemed children and how we are meant to live that out in every moment.