Say Less, Listen More, Love More

by Tara Livesay on April 2, 2014

The world is a garish, noisy neighborhood. Decibels and pixels abound. The phone in my pocket spews more information in hours than I can assimilate in years. I’m reminded of my college speech prof who counseled tongue-in-cheek, “Shout louder if your argument is weak.” There’s a whole lot of shouting these days.  -My Uncle, Rick Porter

The Internet allows us to say too much.  I am convinced of it.  We have the time to say so much and somehow we have less time to listen or love.

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I grew up in the 80’s, it was a time of feathered hair, Duran Duran, ET, and The Cosby Show. It was a time before the Internet and social media reached us all. (My children don’t even understand what that means.) It was back when there was a cold war, instead of a daily internet war.  You know what I am trying to say, albeit cliché – it was a simpler time.

I am guessing that I am just one of  loads and loads of people who feel this way. I believe the very thing that connects the world, the WORLD WIDE WEB, is making us dislike one another with increased fervor.  I cannot possibly know if this is true for anyone but myself, but I wonder if we are so busy sharing what we think that we are not able to hear from God as well. (Either directly or through His chosen channels.) We are very busy saying things.  How much listening can we really do?

For years my Dad resisted moving forward with technology, I mocked him for hating email and wanting me to call him. To this day there are still hold-outs, the 60-somethings that just refuse to engage social media or digital communication. Today is the day I humbly submit my apology for mocking their resistance.  They knew something we didn’t know. They knew that noise overwhelms.

“How we hear or see God is likely as diverse as our styles and personalities. But we best begin in quietude. If you really want to hear Him and know Him, let the chaos of contemporary life settle. Listen for the whisper. Watch for the wink. Your faith will be encouraged and your life enriched. We dare not lose the best of forever in the noise of now”. -My Uncle, Rick Porter

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I recognize in myself a need to let the chaos settle – to be quiet. I don’t have a lot of answers or the time to listen for them, but oh so many things to say. I want to say less and listen more. I want Internet wars to go the way of the Cold War. I came up with some helpful questions that reduce my commentary by all the percents.

Five questions we (I) could ask ourselves (me) before we (I) post on-line:

  1. Why is it important for me to disagree with something I’ve seen? Do I need to prove myself? Do I need to be right?  Am I attempting to shame someone for their opinion?
  2. Does my disagreement in a public forum bring the person I am disagreeing with closer to Jesus?
  3. Does the tone of my thoughts convey respect and love for people who don’t think like me?
  4. Could I say, “Interesting thoughts, I want to think and/or pray on this for a few days and I may be back to dialogue after I do.”
  5. If I feel it is important to share my thoughts on a particular topic, could I share them and then end them more humbly by saying, “That is my belief, but I could be wrong.” (Tony Compolo just modeled this to me.)

Whatever the hot-button debate is, it is fairly common to see friends questioning one another’s sanity, love for Jesus, or comparing someone’s politics to Hitler. Something has happened that makes us bold enough to type things that we would not say if we were standing face to face. Nothing gets worked out during an Internet debate, I am afraid we need to find a way to stop the madness of our mouths (fingers) and find our ears again.

Maybe if we  found the quietude and listened more to God and  one another, our capacity to live AND LOVE  in the tension of varying opinions would increase. Maybe we could say less and listen to and love one another more.

Maybe not, I could be wrong.

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About Tara Livesay

Tara and her family have lived in Haiti since 2006. She resides in Port au Prince, where she serves as a CPM (Midwife) with Heartline Ministries working in the areas of Maternal and Newborn Health. Tara is a the wife of Troy, the mother of seven children ranging in age from 25 to 7 years old. Tara enjoys running, laughing, sarcasm and spending time with her family. Troy and Tara consider Haiti, Minnesota, and Texas "home".
  • Tara you have a very wise uncle.

    How fascinating that Kelley Nikondeha’s post on her personal blog follows this same vein: http://kelleynikondeha.com/when-the-roads-to-zion-mourn/ It would seem as though our writing team members are feeling the same.

    Where does the pressure to have an opinion about everything from gluten to guerrilla warfare come from? This phenomenon baffles me. Why must we take a stand about every little issue that presents itself on our multitudinous screens?

    Your 2nd questions is particularly wonderful:

    Does my disagreement in a public forum bring the person I am disagreeing with closer to Jesus?

    Exactly!

    Wishing right about now that we were RL neighbors so we could hang out and chat. For now I will be grateful that we are cyberspace neighbors and that we can interact on our electronic devices. 🙂

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      Thanks for pointing me to Kelley’s piece – so lovely and true.

      • Tara and Angie, glad we are on the road together. May we practice peace well as we walk on, may we help each other as we go forward.

  • Richelle Wright

    These words: “Maybe if we found the quietude and listened more to God and one another, our capacity to live AND LOVE in the tension of varying opinions would increase.” – and I pray, may they be true of me.

  • Marilyn Gardner

    I recently read the quote from Ann Voskamp “Only speak words that make souls stronger” — your post made me think of that. Your 5 questions are right on and I am going to post them on my computer to the side. Thank you for this post!

  • I have a love/hate relationship with the internet (mostly love, I must admit, but a little bit of hate as well). Or, perhaps more precisely, I love the power the internet has to connect me. I hate the seductive power the net possesses to crowd me. What boundaries or disciplines do you have in place to help protect you in this area?

    • Richelle Wright

      Yes!!! I’d love to hear how others answer that same question, Lisa!

    • Tara Porter-Livesay

      That should have been the question at the end of this post 🙂 I failed to remember to pose questions. I try to only interject positive and kind commentary — if I disagree or find something offensive I just scroll by without comment — When I run I leave my phone and internet behind and am trying to add more time in each day where I am not aware of anything internet related.

      • Richelle Wright

        are you ever concerned that in responding to questions (like the format we use on this site), you’ll end up coming across as offensive or unkind? if so, what personal guidelines do you use under those circumstances? i know that sometimes i just don’t answer questions because i’m concerned my response won’t be perceived in the way i’m trying to offer it, if that makes sense.

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