Healing can happen through generous listening. Generous listening is a foundation of dialogue.
But the power of generous listening comes in part from clear-eyed attentiveness to boundaries. As Parker J. Palmer reminds us, "The openness of a space is created by the firmness of its boundaries." Without boundaries, we risk "an invitation to confusion and chaos."
How to find those boundaries? Not always obvious! Too much warm openness can be as sticky as honey. With too little, the "openness" may be too stiff to serve as a hospitable invitation.
I know that dialogue is not debate, but I keep thinking of the twinkle in his eye and the wisdom of his 92 years in esteemed and beloved Father Ladislas Orsy's encouragement of "merry debate" in the church. He says a precondition for this kind of friendly, mutually enriching debate is trust.
Trust can grow where there are healthy boundaries and generous listening. Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Religious, shared some insights about trust last week.
"Among men, women, among us consecrated people, we still have to mature a great deal. I said this to the religious: First, to protect ourselves, we stayed far away from each other, and this led to the point where we no longer knew each other. Consecrated men don't know consecrated women, and vice versa. This leads us to mistrust; we condemn the other because we don't know each other." Also, "Our world is full of slippery territory. You say something; the other person interprets it to their own understanding of truth. This is difficult for us. We have to find a common point. We must always believe and work."
How to find that common point from which trust can grow?
The straightforward Jubilee Faithful process is a beautiful, useful tool, applicable in many situations. The women who designed it, Kathy Galleher and Susan Harford, call the key part of the process "deep listening."
Jubilee Faithful's website has clear materials on how to apply this EXCELLENT and easily replicable process to enable frustrated faithful folks to find each other and move forward. From personal experience, I know that the Being Series of gatherings transformed frustration into purposeful, faithful community.
Deep listening is a specific method. It's described with care in the Jubilee Faithful materials. Sitting in groups of 5 or 6, people reflect on a question. In turn, each one speaks their own personal experience. No one interrupts, not even with quiet affirming murmurs. People simply listen. Before the next person speaks, everyone pauses for 2 deep breaths. And so on around the circle.
What a gift, to be listened to! How generous, to listen with openness!
As Rachel Remen says in a short video and longer podcast, in generous listening we are there "not to analyze or to figure out what's needed next, or what's wrong with this answer, but simply to know what's true for that other person. Not to consider whether I like what I'm hearing or disagree, do I like who's talking, is this person smarter than I...." All that inner chatter keeps our minds so busy that "we can't hear anybody."
In generous listening, deep listening, "you don't even listen in order to understand why the other person feels the way they do. All that matters is what's true for this person. You simply receive it and respect it. And in that safe interaction, something can happen that's larger than before. And that is already enough."
"Spiritual communication strengthens both people."
May LCWR, the various parts of the Vatican with which they interact, and the three overseer bishops (Sartain, Blair, and Paprocki) find both boundaries and capacity for generous listening so that they can "find a common point" from which trust may grow. May merriment bloom there. May our solidarity with LCWR enable us to add something of value in this process. May the Spirit thrive among all of us.