What Does It Mean to Be Heard?

[A tip of the hat to my colleague KR who’s been thinking about this too.]

“I just want to be heard.”

It’s frustrating when you don’t think people are listening to you, and in these divided times, it’s essential to hear the voices of everyone in the room. The dominant voices often silence the minority and it’s also true that the loudest voices are not necessarily in the majority.

What does it mean to be heard?

  • Agreeing with everything somebody says?
  • Giving everybody the opportunity to speak, even if it’s incendiary?

Even (especially?) in Church, it’s hard to know what God is saying when everybody is heated or aggrieved or frustrated. Most especially in Church, I’m often in spaces where some feel intimidated and are afraid to speak up and so they don’t – even if they wholly disagree with what the loudest in the room are saying.

How do we create space for everybody to have the chance to be heard? And – more importantly – how do we create space where we allow God to speak?

In times of conflict and strong feelings in church settings, it’s important to set ground rules (i.e. only one person speaks at a time and we take turns offering different perspectives/opinions) and it’s important to remind everyone that we are all Children of God and not one of us knows the perfect mind of God.

Is it possible that God loves pregnant women who want/need to have an abortion? Is it possible that God is calling us to repent for the historic sin of slavery – even if we have not enslaved people ourselves? Is it possible that God loves immigrants who enter the United States without following legal processes? Is it possible that God loves people who believe the opposite of what I believe?


It’s essential to remember that each of us deserves to be heard. And listening is not just about waiting for our turn to talk. It’s about listening thoughfully, remember that Jesus died for that speaker.

Note: On this day when we have historically honored Christopher Columbus, I hope we will honor the Native people who were here long before Columbus was born. It was wonderful to be in New Mexico last week and learn more about the many native tribes who first lived in that beautiful part of the world. There are over 100 Native congregations in my denomination comprised of people from the Navajo, Pima, Maricopa, Yavapai, Seneca, and inter-tribal people.

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