Listening and Silence: Respecting Women

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

Women are often shortchanged in conversation do to poor formation in listening. A female pastor and friend shared an article on “10 Words Every Girl Should Learn” that struck a chord with me.

The ten words?

“Stop interrupting me,”

“I just said that,” and

“No explanation needed.”

Now, I tend to interrupt everyone man and woman alike. I know I’m not terribly polite, and perhaps the chord this article struck is one of reforming my behavior, a doubly hard strike because even after working on changing my behavior is still in need of deeper reform. Malcolm Gladwell and others have pointed back to the social and psychological formation that is evident in time lags in conversation and word association. In “Blink”, Gladwell talks a little about the timing and wording of conversations being key to understanding the working of relationships.

What this article does is point out that when women speak they are given less credibility, thought of as hogging the conversation despite clear male dominance, and worse than all that women are socialized to accept this. I wonder if my conversations with Courtney were recorded if we could not ice a clear pattern of behavior that undermines her self confidence. She is one of the most capable women I have ever met, and I wonder if I try to dominate her or really respect her input. I fear often it is the later.

I haven’t always treated women well and I hope to continue treating them better.

This especially rings as important now that I have two daughters. Not only do I want them raised to be confident in their thoughts and abilities, I want them to inspire that confidence in others. I want the same for myself and for my wife as well. But as this article points out, we are working against the tide. As a male, I have to be conscious of my own formation along with that of others to see the challenges of expression created by that formation and work hard along with others in helping them to express themselves.

The verse from Galatians points out the great incongruity of Christians standing for this type of behavior. We are all participants in the grace of Christ, clothed in Christ.  The prayer of St. Patrick asks us to see Christ in them and to let them see Christ in us. Each person deserves to have us take time listening, silently and with appropriate responses. Christian socialization should have formation in listening and speaking to one another… Failing that or alongside that formation, maybe we could teach those 10 words and respect for those forced to use them by us when we are at best overzealous or at worst plain rude.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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