In a world broken by political divides, by cultural and racial tensions and by violence, it can be overwhelming just to engage with someone who holds opinions different than our own. We wrestle with daily interactions. We may find ourselves befuddled by those we struggle to relate to. Relationships and conversations can confound us.
On a long drive recently, I listened to a radio show about how to persuade others about political issues. The hosts were certain of their own political views so one underlying premise was that the opposing point of view was incomplete or in error. The hour was full of good suggestions for letting the other person speak and ways to explain your own views without being threatening. The hosts were even practical enough to suggest that the other person might not listen or be persuadable. But the question that went through my mind throughout the hour was why. Why should we persuade others to agree with us? Do we always need to win arguments or be right? Is it so bad to have differing opinions? I don’t think so. The world would boring if we all agreed on everything.
I am a ballroom dancer. The conversation between partners, the lead and the follow, is one of wordless articulation. The lead initiates the story: go here, turn there, spin right then pause … and go. The follow listens intently with the entire body for nuances of inward expression to match the lead’s steps.
Spiritual direction follows a similar pattern. The dance of dialogue through storytelling and holy listening is breathtaking to behold.
My first experience with Spiritual Direction took me by surprise. I was going through grief and in the midst of transition. During this time, I was invited by a not-so-close friend to meet weekly for conversation and prayer. I accepted her invitation and discovered that although she wasn’t an accredited spiritual director, she was a naturally gifted one. She provided for me what I then came to expect from Spiritual Direction: a focused listening ear.