“Free speech carries with it some freedom to listen.”
When it comes to what we read, watch, or listen to, we are usually looking for what we agree with and thus find ourselves as part of “the amen corner,” or we look for what we disagree with and find ourselves as the antagonist—or worse, part of the ever growing group called “haters.” And then we are quick to express our opinion, often without taking the time to listen, understand, and reflect.
But what if we stop talking to others who think differently, and try listening to them instead? Or as my mom used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak.”
At Love146 we have been trying really hard through the years to become better listeners. We are not perfect at it, but have increasingly become more deliberate. Listening is part of our DNA. But it is also a discipline—especially listening to those who may think differently or have different opinions. This discipline helps us grow and mature.
Among Love146’s staff and supporters, we have an incredible amount of diversity in perspective. You might be surprised to see how different the people this cause brings to the table can be: Democrats and Republicans, people of faith and atheists, artists and lawyers, moral conservatives and sex worker rights advocates. The thing we all agree on is that children should not be enslaved and exploited. This means that on almost any other subject matter you can think of, you’ll find different opinions. I think it makes us stronger and more beautiful. At the same time, we practice mutual respect so that there is a freedom to express those opinions without fear. Safe spaces are something we promote not only in our work with children, but in our office culture.
I’ve chosen to place my desk at our US headquarters in the middle of a hallway. I do not have an “office” like some of my coworkers. There are no doors. Surrounding my desk are some cozy chairs and a couch. These are not for afternoon naps, but for what we have lovingly come to call “couch time,” where we wrestle with the complexities of the hard issues that we deal with daily. You can say what you think in this “fear free zone,” but more importantly… listen. Really listen. We walk away not necessarily agreeing, but always respecting each other and often with a deeper understanding. Publicly, however, we often find ourselves doing a careful and sometimes exhausting dance to prevent folks from assuming that any singular point of view expressed represents all of Love146. Or worse, that any statement we make could cause a reader to associate us with all of their personal connotations of the “kind of people” who would make that statement. Like I said earlier, it seems to be more natural to look for our ally or our adversary in things we come across instead of simply listening without making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
The thoughts and ideas of others, especially those who think differently than us, often help to shape, inform, and increase our knowledge and understanding—not to mention make us more whole as human beings.
I remember someone telling me before I was going into another country that “you either go as a learner or you go as an offender.” A brilliant piece of advice, which can apply to most of life. I think the world needs more learners and fewer offenders.
We will be introducing a few new regular series on our blog, one of which we will be calling “Couch Time” where we open up some of the conversations we are wrestling with, and another called “Supporter Spotlight” where we’ll be handing the mic to some of you who are journeying with us. Like we’ve said, aside from our commitment to the end of child trafficking and exploitation, there are a myriad of experiences and convictions that compel us to the cause. So we want to encourage you to listen and stretch beyond what might be comfortable for you when reading these posts. And hopefully, through listening, we will learn together.