This week, I was pondering my column topic for the week and considering that we only have less than two weeks until Election Day, I’m feeling a pull to stay with the election, which is said daily to be the most important election of our lifetime. Thank God, He gave me my answer.
A dear friend, Rev. Aisha Karimah, shared that she had tested positive for COVID-19, so rather than share my concern on Facebook, I picked up the phone to call her and got her voicemail. Her message said, “A wise old owl lived in an oak. The more he saw, the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard.” I thought “Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?”
This is a nursery rhyme that originated in the USA. My research shows we are not sure of its exact origins but most probably it dates back to the 19th century. It is believed to be a symbol of wisdom and an extremely successful tool to teach children the virtue of silence. However, it requires some pondering. A parent that talks more than they listen (and doesn’t listen much) cannot teach what they don’t know. Malcolm X said it best when he said, “You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where you won’t go!”
The first example that comes to mind is the recent presidential debate — you know, the one where President Trump spoke over former Vice President Joe Biden nearly the entire time! Obviously, our president is not at all familiar with this children’s nursery rhyme.
A danger to relationships of all types is our lack of listening — talking over others because you think what you have to say is most important. Scripture warns us of the virtue of patience in Gallatians 5:22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.” Longsuffering and patience are interchangeable, depending on which Bible you read. For the sake of this article, let’s call it ineffective communication, when both people speak but nobody sits quietly, watches and listens.
We all hear this frequently about spouses, children, bosses and colleagues, even churches, community groups — you name it. This seems to be particularly true when there are disagreements or conflicts.
Once all listening stops, a few things happens next — interrupting, yelling, ignoring, escaping, cowering, probing and preaching.
Is it possible this lack of listening is the reason for the disagreement, misunderstanding and conflict? I think yes, and I believe this lack-of-listening phenomenon happens far more regularly in our relationships than most of us would care to admit, whether there is conflict or not.
Finally, here is a list of dynamic quotes:
“No one is as deaf as the man who will not listen.” — Proverb
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” — Dalai Lama
“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” — Ralph Nichols
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have rather talked.” — Mark Twain
“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.” — Tich Nhat Hanh
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrant.com, email email@example.com or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.