I recently began my fourth year of university. Throughout this journey, I have gained many vital skills that will last me my whole life. But of all the skills and knowledge that I have thus far gained, it is the ability to listen that I cherish most.
Before I entered this path, I was a stubborn man—at least, much more stubborn than I am now. You see, I used to reject any view contrary to my own, especially those contrary to my deeply held religious beliefs. I am still religious, but a younger me can safely be called a fundamentalist.
Back then my ears were closed and my mouth was opened. I would only listen to my thoughts, organizing my reply, ignoring the words of people standing in front of me who—as it seemed— stood opposed to me.
For me, the Bible was the truth and nothing but the truth. Whether it spoke of scientific things or historical things, the Bible was always right—even when what I thought it was saying contradicted what specialists (like scientists) were saying.
So what changed? I went to school. I learned to listen, being taught by professors who– in many cases– held views quite removed from my own. And since I would be tested on what they said, I had to listen. I took notes, giving me time to reflect on their words, their arguments, and comprehend their positions. With time, I gradually left the walled-off confines of my mind and opened my ears. I changed. I became a listener.
No longer was I half-listening and half-preparing my reply. I was simply listening.
This issue with not listening is a wide-spread problem, made especially evident in times like now—leading up to the US presidential election—where politics polarize nearly all persons. Too many of us are stubborn, argumentative, and un-listening. Our ears and our minds are shut to the thoughts and words of the other—those in the camp opposite to our own (the conservatives to the liberals and the liberals to the conservatives).
We close ourselves off at the mere mention of names—labels. How many of us reject sound arguments simply because they come from those outside our camp? I know I did. And I see it all around me, as Facebook forums and internet comments erupt in vapid debates where virtually no one changes their minds or even listens.
I wish I could write this piece, have the whole world read it, take notes as I did in my classes, and suddenly everything changes and everyone begins to listen. But that won’t happen, and I don`t know the key to making people listen. All I can do is implore you to listen to the other side, open your ears and your mind.
Because it’s all for naught in a world where no one listens.