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Posted on: October 19th, 2017 by BWNWAdmin No Comments

“I should sell my tongue and buy a thousand ears.”



Thursday morning — one more day to find and listen to someone I might not agree with.


That challenge had come from a Beyond War group studying Bill Ury’s book, The Third Side. We were practicing a guideline to listen much more than we talked, with an attitude of respectful curiosity. It seemed easy enough, until I imagined being reduced to tears with the clock set back to 1956, when I was required to wear dresses to school and do as I was told without question.

Protesters sat in lawn chairs outside Planned Parenthood, wrapped in blankets and sheltered from the rain by umbrellas. I had already inoculated myself by reading points of view different from my own, but those sources couldn’t answer back. These people could.

“May I join you? I’d like to learn why you are here. I just want to listen, not to persuade you about a different point of view.”

One of the protesters turned toward me; the other turned her back. “I used to think the way you do, that a woman has a right to decide what happens to her body…until I had children of my own. (And, yes, I can tell that’s what you believe, or you wouldn’t be here to listen to an opposing viewpoint.) My kids were too precious for me to even imagine anyone cutting off their lives before they began, and I realized that I needed to stand up for those who could not speak.”

After she talked for a while, I touched the other woman’s arm and asked whether she had been listening and if she had anything she would like to add. “I have and I sure do! Look at the pictures on this poster! What was done to the fetus at the top was child abuse, pure and simple. I want all babies to be healthy and smiling like the one at the bottom.”


She had been a labor and delivery nurse for well over 30 years and knew her argument from the inside out. She had no doubts about her position, and wondered how any feeling person could support abortion. When I asked questions, she answered with statistics and anger at Planned Parenthood’s policies.


The first protester then asked me how I could simply listen. How could I refuse to act, in the face of this evidence? How could I “meet my Maker” knowing that I had allowed such barbarity to continue?

I desperately wanted to have a civil discussion and consider more options than are on the table now. But I kept my mouth closed, other than to remind them that I was there to learn, and to practice listening respectfully. It felt deceitful to shelter my beliefs while asking for theirs, but it also felt important.

Before I left, the first woman complimented me. “We don’t have enough people in the world who are willing to listen. Thank you. Please come back and talk with us again. We’d like to hear about you.”

I learned something important that day. All of us have reasons for our beliefs. We cherish stories that point us toward our convictions. Sometimes, all that is needed to ease the door open for a broader conversation is to first listen.

By Rebecca Wolle

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