To love with a listening heart

Love well in the midst of speaking truth.

May we all speak truth with hearts of love. Photo credit: katerha on Flickr

I think we all value a certain character trait above others. For instance, I highly value justice.  I know others who highly value peace or community or mercy. No matter what trait makes sense to us, pulls on our heartstrings, or is highest on our list – if we don’t love, it doesn’t matter.

Now, I realize that it’s very popular today to exalt love so high that we are advised to avoid truth. I couldn’t disagree more. We are called to speak the truth. We are called to defend the innocent and helpless. We are called to fight for justice.

However, if we do all the right things and have all the right beliefs and yet lack love, we are missing something big. Something really big. Why, after all, do we want every little baby to have a chance at life? Because it’s right; it’s just; it’s peaceful; it’s fair? Well, yes, it’s all of those. But more than anything, it’s because we love those babies enough to raise our voices on their behalf. Yet, even though our work is rooted in love, we often forget this.

Let’s ask ourselves two questions:

1) Am I speaking the truth? It is not loving to mislead others, deceive them, or otherwise hide the truth because it’s uncomfortable to discuss. Babies are dying, and it is our responsibility to do something about it – not to sit down and act like we don’t know what’s happening. We do know, and we are without excuse.

2) Do I truly exercise a listening heart? Like any other muscle, the heart must be exercised. And we need to exercise it in listening skills. That may sound funny, but I mean it. I know I personally am learning a lot in this area of life right now. I love to talk, to explain things, to present my views. But I’m not always the best listener.

I think #1 is pretty clear. If we do not speak up for those who we know are appointed to die, their blood is on our hands. You can choose if you want to live with that or not. I don’t, and so I need to continually be doing more to stop the bloodshed.

Number two is trickier, though. Do we really have to stand around and listen to an abortion supporter go on and on about why abortion is the greatest gift ever to women and why we are horrible, selfish, uncaring individuals for believing the unborn have a right to life? Uh, nope, I don’t think so. There is such a thing as a pure waste of time. I don’t believe in giving up on anyone, but I do believe that there is a time to walk away from a conversation and end it. No one can force us to keep listening when he or she is not being reasonable or open to debate. Specifically when people resort to rudeness, name-calling, or the like – that’s likely not something we need to stick around for. Of course, there are always exceptions.

Here’s what I’m really getting at, though. If you have a woman who asks you for advice because she feels like she is being pressured into having an abortion by her boyfriend or her parents, what do you say? Do you say something like, “Woman, stand up on your own two feet. You know your baby is a living human being, so you better let that baby live. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do! If you cave in to pressure, you’re just as guilty as they are. Save your baby!”? Those are all right statements, yes? But who wants to listen to that? If we have a loving, listening heart, we may be able to realize that this woman is screaming out for someone to value her and tell her how strong she really is. She has strength and love in her heart, but she’s reaching out for someone who can help her find it.

What about saying something like this instead? “You know, that’s a really hard situation. I’m so sorry you feel alone. But you know, you told me that you feel pressured – you told me that you don’t believe in abortion. And I know that you are a strong woman. Your baby loves you just like you already love her. Listen to your heart – not to the people who are trying to make you do what they want. You already know what’s right. You already know your baby needs you. No matter what anyone else tells you, you are your baby’s mother, and you’re the only one who can give your baby life. I’m here for you. Let me know what you need.” Speak strength into this woman’s life, not guilt.

Another woman comes to you and says, “I don’t want this baby. I just can’t afford to have him.” Do you, right away, come off with a statement like this? “It’s not about money. It’s about the fact that your baby has a right to life. There’s always a way to make everything work. You wouldn’t be pregnant with this baby if you couldn’t handle it.” True? Kinda. Sorta. Maybe.

But what about this? “It can be so hard to deal with money issues sometimes – especially when something or someone comes along that you’re not expecting. But you know, your baby is still just as precious as he would be if you had all the money in the world. If money is the thing that’s holding you back, let me help you get in touch with some agencies that can help you get what you need. Let me make some of your payments for you. Or, if money is just one issue and you still don’t think you can care for a baby right now, did you know that many adoptive couples will pay all your bills related to pregnancy? The medical bills, the prenatal vitamins, your maternity clothes – all that. Would you like to sit down with me and talk about your options?” Speak help and community into this woman’s life, not condemnation.

I’m not saying I have the answers, people. I’m not saying I listen the best. I’m not saying I say the perfect thing – far from it. My heart breaks for every baby I haven’t been able to save. If only I had said the right thing. Yet I know that it’s not all wrapped up in what I say. Every woman does indeed make her own choice. But I know that I want to learn to listen, to love, and to say better things so that every woman feels valuable and every baby is saved.

Here is a song that has meant a lot to me lately. I hope it encourages you to love well in the midst of speaking truth.

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