As Masons, we are crystal-clear—and deeply passionate—about our moral values. Go to our Valley of Portland website and you’ll see it plainly laid out: “We believe in teaching and emulating the principles of Brotherly Love, Tolerance, Charity, and Truth.” And though we often don’t think specifically about listening skills in this connection, the fact is that listening skills are a powerful pathway to embodying those values. Let’s take a moment to see why …
The Incredible Power of “Active Listening”
To begin, look at those values again—Brotherly Love, Tolerance, Charity, and Truth. Now think of your listening skills in terms of their impact on others. When someone feels LISTENED TO, they feel more loved, understood, and cared about. They feel that their emotions and thoughts are validated, and this opens the door to you being able to more deeply understand and connect with them. It’s not difficult to see how your own brotherly love, tolerance, charity, and search for truth are directly empowered by listening skills.
But what KIND of listening skills are we talking about? How do we truly listen well, and in the most VALUES-CENTERED way? First, we need to understand that there is a distinct difference between “hearing” and “listening.” Hearing is the process that involves simply perceiving sound, but listening requires that you perceive this sound with deliberate intention. In its best form, this is known as “active listening.”
From Passive Hearing to Active Listening
When you are an “active listener,” you make a sincere effort to truly take in what the other person is saying. You put distractions such as your phone away, and offer full attention to the speaker. With your posture and facial expressions, you communicate that you care enough about the person to focus on what he or she is saying.
Active listening does NOT mean remaining completely silent. In fact, it’s important to offer the speaker feedback—such as saying “uh, huhs,” or by nodding, or by asking clarifying questions—to show you are paying attention and are not just passive in the discussion.
Spiritual Teaching and Masonic Values
Though “active listening” may have a modern ring to it, the role listening skills play in Brotherly Love, Tolerance, Charity, and Truth has been known for centuries. Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” This scripture emphasizes the importance of putting yourself aside in order to fully understand the views of others. And in the Book of James (1:19) we read: “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
As Masons, we seek to manifest the kind of masculine power, strength, and grace that comes from building one’s life on the bedrock of moral values. As we’ve seen, developing active listening skills is one of the most powerful tools you can use in that journey.
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