There is a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln that inspires me:
“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.“
So much of our social discourse has dissolved into stalemates. Now more than ever, listening may be the most revolutionary heartivist act that any of us can undertake. To offer another person our attention and presence is a gift.
I have written before about my belief that listening is more than being silent; it is the spaciousness to receive the words of another with the authentic expectation that something new and important will be shared. For most people I know (myself included), this is difficult. More often, we are filtering someone else’s words or actions through the perspective of our own unmet needs, preconceived judgments, or the defensiveness of our ego.
As heartivists striving for connection, wholeness, and peace, the practice of cultivating discernment over judgment begins with listening and reflection. There is a practice from the study of Non-Violent Communication (NVC) I use to help me grow in this area. I find that intently thinking about my own needs and emotions in a difficult conversation, as well as trying to place myself in the mindset of the “other” helps shift my perspective significantly. (If you try this exercise, I would love to hear about your experience.)
As I grow in my heartivist practice, I still sometimes feel anger, indignation, or grief at the suffering in the world; but I see those things, and my relationship to them, with clear eyes and less reactivity.
This isn’t a warm and fuzzy addendum to social change. It is the very foundation of it.
In the words of my hero, Martin Luther King Jr.,
“You can have no influence over those for whom you have underlying contempt.”