- Listen to Learn,
- Learn to Love,
- Love directs Actions,
- Loving Action creates…
- Beloved Community.
At the SANCTUARY CDC we use the phrase “Beloved Community” to describe our vision. A community where all are honored, all are safe, all are educated and where we live out the words of Christ, “… to love your neighbor as yourself.”
However, building Beloved Community begins with a very simple act. Listening. It is true in marriage, it is true in families, and it is very true in diverse communities. If we do not hear and understand the fears, hopes and concerns of others, how can we connect and build a community where we will, as the Apostle Paul says, “honor one another above yourself?” I cannot honor you, if I do not know you. Knowing begins with LISTENING.
Listening is one thing our culture is NOT known for. We love to talk, we love self-expression, but rarely seek opportunities to hear others, and especially if their view confront or challenge our own. Listening is about surrendering power. Those who hold the power, control the resources, and make the decisions, seldom want to take the time to listen. Power people want to make decisions and expect others to jump in line. To really listen demands a surrender of power, because listening is to admit, “I may NOT be able to make this decision, or complete this task without allowing the voice of another to be heard and included in the decision”.
Those in power frequently short-cut listening and cut off communication through a hidden list of requirements that must be meet if one is to be heard. In this way the powerful can end the communication if it becomes uncomfortable or burdensome: “You didn’t fill out this form correctly,” “I don’t appreciate your tone,” “Please don’t use language that offends me.” While there is a legitimate place for such comments, they often come from Power, uncomfortable with the truth, and desiring to cut off conversation. I am not advocating that we give rudeness and disorganization a free pass. However, these types of excuses are frequently a cover to stifle conversation when the powerful, in their own isolated place of security, have already decided what is best, and are not interested in what others feel, think, or know.
I never see my Lord trying to control the communication when he controlled the power. He listened. He drew people in. He created a climate where a Beloved Community would be created. Grace-giving AND confrontational-truth-telling; repentance AND forgiveness; honesty that allows raw emotion AND kindness that prevents abuse; these pairs perform a strange dance in the production of reconciliation and the building of beloved community.
Finally, one must confront the fact that Power is primarily a function of class and race; paradigms we cannot fully escape, but yet constructs we must begin to de-construct. In confession, I must say as I re-read and prepare to publish this post, I am reminded how often I fail to really listen, and instead invoke my power in order to preserve my illusion of control.
Do you retreat to security, or press in to community?