Listening First

“We give dignity to each other by the way we listen to each other, in a spirit of trust and of dying to oneself so that the other may live, grow and give.”
-Jean Vanier in From Brokenness to Community

Jean Vanier is the founder of L’Arche Communities, which provides homes and workplaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers, create communities of faith and friendship and transform society by breaking down the barriers that often make it difficult for us to see one another as human. If that sounds Christian to you, it should come as no surprise that it was Vanier’s faith that led him to found a community that sought to affirm the image of God in people no matter their abilities, social skills, or financial situation. Vanier wanted to make sure that some of the most vulnerable people of our world knew that God saw them and believed they were worthy of love.

In our fractured world, driven more deeply apart by politics, media, and fear, Vanier’s comments that we learn how to give dignity to others by first listening, and then trusting and sacrificially giving of our selves for the sake of others is so counterintuitive. It goes against everything we naturally gravitate towards. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, my hunch is that we each have had someone in our lives who has been willing to put their own interests to the side so that we might live, grow and give to others. We might not have a lot of people who have treated us like that, but hopefully we’ve had a least one.

And those people leave a profound mark on our lives. They have modeled the love of God to us, putting the goals and interests of others above their own. I wonder what it might be like if we prayed that God would help us to die to ourselves so that others might live, grow and give? Might we decrease so that God’s love would increase in our relationships with one another and as a church for the sake of our community?