Listening – Can You Hear Me Now?

by Sister Nancy Miller, OSF

The eighth in a series on active nonviolence from the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa (

“Can you hear me now?” was a catchy question that gained celebrity status in a commercial by the Verizon Wireless test man. The commercial illustrated that even with a cell phone, one does not always have a clear line of communication. This simple truth catches my imagination about how I communicate and how I listen to others and to myself. It caused to me to reflect on my own life as a Franciscan Sister embracing a life of active nonviolence and peacemaking.

Admittedly, I often have to work hard to truly listen to another. I often make judgments about others without being open to listening to their perspective – their truth – their reality. I am often formulating my own thoughts and words and not taking the time or making the effort to really listen to certain individuals. Another aspect of listening that I sometimes find even more important is the need to listen to myself – to be in touch with and grounded in how I view God, the world, and others.   Both of these components are challenging, and yet, they are at the heart of active nonviolent listening.

To illustrate, I share with you a personal story from my own experience. I was living in the inner city of Chicago among people who were economically poor. During a period of time, our house (convent) was being repeatedly broken into causing us great concern for our safety, especially for the safety of an elderly Sister. One afternoon, another Sister and I came home from work early and found two young men, obviously members of a local gang, trespassing in our house. We did not know if they were armed but suspected they were. We were all surprised at encountering each other face to face. In a moment of grace, I introduced myself, asked their names and asked if we could help them. I can only guess that our questions and demeanor caught them off guard, and we carried on a conversation. As I spoke with them, the other Sister left the room to call the police. I cannot recall all that was said, but I do remember their faces and their voices.

The police eventually arrived and escorted the two young men out, but we chose not to press charges. In my exchange with them, I experienced an array of emotions, but I realize that I acted out of a core value of active nonviolence. I was able to get past my anger at their brazen actions, and listen to the deeper truth; these young men were two of God’s children and needed to be treated with respect.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I need to continually practice listening to myself and others in order to truly hear. So ponder your response to “Can you hear me now?”

Nancy Miller, OSF

Published in: on November 5, 2015 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  

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