November 1, 2020

Human Beings vs. Human Doings

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We’ve all noticed the growing levels of anger in our world today.  It started long before Covid 19 complicated all of our lives.  People were less willing to treat each other with civility.  People were unwilling to listen to other points of view.  People were unwilling to give one another “the benefit of the doubt.”  People seem much more willing to resort to violence against others.  All of this has been magnified with the stresses of the pandemic.

I was reading an article about a pastor who has “discovered” the ancient art of listening.  He had offered an opinion to an old friend who was going through a spiritual crisis, and it had been just the wrong thing to say.  He spent a great deal of time thinking, “What should I have said instead?” until he realized that was the wrong question.  He should have been saying “How could I have listened better?”

We all need to sharpen our listening skills.  How much anger in our world is because people think no one is listening to them.    As Christians, we often feel like we should have the answers when it is more important to listen to a person’s true questions.  Therapists have long used a technique of saying, “What I hear you saying is __________.  Have I heard you correctly?”  We all need to practice that more often.  How much anger and ill-feeling could that avoid?

Another reason for our societal anger is the frenetic pace of everyday life.  We are constantly in action.  Somehow we feel guilty if we don’t have something to do every moment.  There are too many things we “have” to get done.  We don’t take time to rest and enjoy life.  I ran across the phrase this week that we place ourselves in danger for becoming “human doings” instead of “human beings.”  God knows that we have this tendency, so God gave us the Sabbath—a day to rest from our labors, spending time with God.

Some of you have heard me tell the story (probably apocryphal) about the man who spent a lot of time on his porch rocking.  One of his neighbors complained that he wasted so much time doing nothing.  His response was , “I am doing something.  I’m sitting here, letting God love me.”  If we all took the time to let God love us, we wouldn’t have nearly the anger we do. Martin Luther summed it up as “I have become so busy, I need to spend an extra hour in prayer.”  (Actually I don’t know where the quote comes from, but I have seen it quoted as “an hour”, “three hours”, and “four hours”).

So if you find yourself becoming angry over little things.  Try spending more time with God, either simply letting God love you, or pouring out your heart to the one who truly listens and understands you.  Or offer yourself to truly listen to others.