On Sunday, my friend, Ellie, made me think about something in a different way.
During her church reflection entitled “When Forgiving Takes Three,” she spoke about how we sometimes need assistance from a third party to help us through conflict situations. What really made me think, though, was the idea of listening as a gift to others. Usually we think of listening as receiving. We sit back, someone tells us their thoughts or feelings, and we receive that from them. But the act of listening—really listening—is more about giving than receiving.
How many times have you felt tuned-out by someone when you are speaking with them? Frustrating, isn’t it? How many times have you shared thoughts or ideas with another but felt your concerns weren’t received in the way you intended?
We have the power to dissipate conflict early on simply by allowing another person to vent their frustrations and by giving that person the gift of really hearing them and working hard to understand.
I’ve got my ears on. Ready to listen.
Rev. Ellie Barrington: “When Forgiving Takes Three” http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/reflections/when-forgiving-takes-three/
“Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” —Blaise Pascal
In Canada, our summer draws to a close and a new season of activities awaits. In other parts of the world, spring approaches with its potentials for newborn projects. No matter what part of the world we live in, this time of year calls us to cleanse ourselves and begin anew.
Are you holding on to bitterness? Are you drinking poison, swirling it in your mouth, and savouring its flavour?
Can you see it as poisonous only to you and not to the other person or other people?
Forgive, pour out the glass of bitter poison and begin again.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else—you are the one who gets burned.”
The end of the year is a good time to cleanse the soul, to get rid of the negative, so the new year begins with plenty of room for positive blessings.
Back away from the hot coals. You’ll feel better, and no one gets hurt.
Last November I wrote about my friend’s 103rd birthday. Sadly, she didn’t make it to 104, and we celebrated her life of joy and gratitude last Thursday at my church. She selected the story of the prodigal son as the scripture for her service; she was someone who had known alienation and reunion. At the end of her life though, colourful helium balloons decorated a sanctuary filled with hugs and forgiveness. Over 103 years she had learned to celebrate love when you see it and never let it slip from your grasp.
Here’s how I know:
A few years ago, a new couple started coming to our church. They were typical in that they hadn’t been actively involved in church for some time, and they had all kinds of wary misconceptions about what “church” would be. But they wanted to get married, so they sought a faith community that fit their progressive theology.
They quickly became a cherished part of our congregation. One of them helped with our decor and planned fun activities; the other joined our church council. Their love for each other was obvious to all around: true and timeless. When they got married, members of our congregation filled the pews to support them and cry tears of joy as they exchanged vows.
On a Sunday morning not long after their wedding, my friend—a mere 99 years old then—made her way into the coffee room with the help of a walker. She saw one of the newlyweds and told a friend that she would like to speak with him. He walked over and sat beside her. She reached out a hand to his and said, “I am so glad that you are here with us, and I wanted to congratulate you on your wedding.”
He thanked her and went to share what she had said with his husband. They are a same-sex couple who married in our sanctuary.
Some people might think that older people have old-fashioned ideas that can’t be changed. But what my friend learned in her 103 years of life is this:
When you see love, celebrate it, whatever form it takes.