Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Solidarity With The Person

When people speak, it is of course important to listen to what they have to say, and to try to understand it. But it is also important to be present and attentive to the person who speaks. It is important to appreciate and share, insofar as it is possible in one's own heart, the kind of experience that forms the vital context of what is said, and often even shapes the content or at least the mode in which it is expressed.

People speak not only to convey information, but also to communicate something of themselves, which means that genuine listening requires openness to the person. It is particularly critical to accept the person in their vulnerability and constraints, and to create an atmosphere of receptivity and welcoming attention for them. Sometimes they are trying to express their pain.

The beginning of any discussion should be solidarity with the person; willingness to travel the path with the person and readiness to suffer with the person.

Of course, that makes discussion seem like a frightening task to take up. Perhaps we must begin by acknowledging and recognizing our own limitations and fears, and being humble in front of the other person. I know I'm not good at this myself, but I'm praying that God will open my heart.

I really am bad at being humble, at listening to the other person, at solidarity. I am not voicing a pious sentiment here. I see this as a real obstacle in my relationships with others. But I also see the need for it, for myself and I think for all people. May God accomplish it within us in His time.

Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Every human person has dignity, and is destined for eternal life. Grant us, O Lord, the grace to love and affirm and defend the dignity of every person, to love the destiny of every person, to relieve the suffering of others, and to bear that suffering with them in solidarity.

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