Before we had kids, my wife and I used to drive up to the Richmond area once or twice a year to visit her family. To pass the time, we would pop in one of Roy D. Mercer’s comedy CD’s. These feature a number of prank phone calls Roy has already arranged through the recipients friend or co-worker. In almost every case, Roy, “has a bone to pick” because he claims the offending party has done something that he hasn’t. He then follows up the false claim by demanding an exorbitant pay-off amount or receive the back-side whooping he has planned. After a few minutes, Roy reveals his true identity, the call comes to a close, and the collective blood pressure seems to drop.
When it comes to dialog about sensitive subjects such as guns and race, we rarely ever hear a sensible, reasonable, compassionate voice. We don’t hear the sound of someone else’s actual experience or legitimate fears when it comes to gun violence or race. Instead more often than not, we hear the voice of Roy D, making outrageous claims, and demanding an immediate response. We can hear the voice of Roy D saying “pay up,” when in reality such words might have been delivered as gently, humbly, and honestly as a Benjamin Watson interview.
We always respond to what we “hear.” And when we hear Roy D’s voice, we do what everyone does when he hear Roy D’s voice. We get angry, defensive, talk louder, and threaten back.
Don’t believe me? Have you ever been on facebook? Black lives matter. No all lives matter. Guns lead to more violence, no guns lead to less violence. Both sides hear Roy. All they hear is Roy.
Rarely do we actually listen. We respond. Maybe with a facebook or blog comment or email or words that simply must be said at that moment, when we are most emotionally invested.
But what if we really heard what the other was saying? Sometimes we hear Roy D, when in reality he or she is saying is, “I’m afraid!” Or perhaps it is an experience that needs validation, a concern that needs hearing, a question for clarification, or even a challenge to a deep conviction that is not grounded in God’s Word to us.
Listening is more than an option. The book of James reminds us to be, “Quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
I know we feel like we are making a difference when we take a certain stance on facebook. But we aren’t. Sometimes we’re just perpetuating the shouting.
Jesus has an open door policy with His followers. We can pray. We can be heard. His feelings don’t get hurt when we express disappointment to Him, so we don’t have to express disappointment with others all the time. When others say “Pay up,” Jesus says “It’s already paid!”
If we hear its “paid up,” we can listen before we speak. We can then recognize how often we sound like Roy D to others. We can change our tone without changing our convictions. We can validate others experiences even when disagreeing with their conclusions. We have the tools to listen if we hear Jesus’ voice before we hear Roy’s. Oh that we would believe that. Oh that I would believe this more today than yesterday.
This article first appeared in “Faith Matters section” of Bradenton Herald