Are You Listening?

It seems as though no one is really listening at the moment. Fifteen months of a pandemic, where we have been constantly bombarded with news of COVID spread, death tolls, flattening the curve, safety precautions, etc. have left us all numb. We are just trying to survive. The result is we have stopped listening.

We don’t mean that literally. We hear what others are saying, but we are no longer engaging as we did prior to this COVID reality we are now living in. The stress of living as we have been has lessened our ability to hear another person’s opinion, especially one that may differ from our own. There are two common responses when we disagree with someone. The first is to say nothing, not engage at all. The second is to attack that person’s position and to do so aggressively. We long for discussion, debate, understanding and respect.

We have witnessed a significant increase in attacking aggressively opposing viewpoints. It is almost like the quicker a discussion can be slammed shut the safer everyone will be. But that is not the case. COVID has made us all stressed. Our nerves and emotions are raw. This has made us less empathetic, less willing to listen. We want to push stress away however we can. If that means pushing away people we disagree with, then so be it.

The COVID Pandemic has created a “Culture Pandemic.” What is that you may ask? The cancel culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or profession circles. It can happen online, on social media, or in person. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to have been “cancelled.” This is not healthy and not how we, as a society and community, should behave.

Once the pandemic passes and we emerge into a new sense of normal, we will find many things have changed. We will either need to change with them or relearn what we missed. One of the major things we will need to relearn is … listening. It is too important to us as a community.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian said: “The first service one owes to others in a community involves listening to them.” We believe he is correct. It is important, also, to understand the difference between listening and hearing. We can hear another’s words without listening to their meaning. When we actively listen to someone, we are not yelling at them. We are not doing other things. We are quietly focused on what they are saying so we can understand. It has been said we have two ears and one mouth; we should use them proportionally.

We will need to learn again how to participate in a conversation with someone whose position is opposite ours without completely losing our cool or simply shutting down. Healthy debate, divergence of opinions, individuality, diversity are all elements of a healthy society. It is what has made Greenwich such an incredible community to live in.

There are many important conversations going on in our community and around the country at the moment. We should be able to discuss these topics without fear of the cancel culture and ostracism regardless of what side of the issues you are on. If we cannot discuss them rationally then there is little hope that something positive will result

Dietrich Bonhoeffer also said: “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” We need to show our children that we care about their future as much as our own. COVID has affected the entire world. As we come out of it, we must ensure we are once again building a strong community. Listening, really listening, is the first step.

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