Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
This is one of my favorite parts of the entire poem. After reminding readers that it is important to go amid the crazy world with peace and to do your best to be on good terms with people, the poem then reminds readers of their responsibility to speak and to listen. Neither one of which I am particularly good at any given moment.
For me, there is nothing harder than speaking the truth of God quietly AND clearly. I didn’t grow up going to church, and sharing my faith is still very difficult for me. I know what I believe, and I love my God and my constantly changing relationship with Him, but sharing Him is so hard. I don’t want to offend (even if the gospel can be offensive) and I don’t want to not have the answers (even though I know it’s okay to not know it all). I want everyone I know and love to have this same sense of something more in their lives, but sharing it is just plain hard for me.
But, what’s harder than speaking? Listening. Listening means taking the time to invest in people and to their story. I think the part about listening to even the dull and ignorant is even harder. First off all, it’s a judgement you’re making, but it’s also another way of saying – listen to everyone, not just people who are already like you. It means listening to the people in the world who have no story, at least according to you. The people who maybe aren’t the center of the room or don’t attract the normal group of people. Listen to them anyway.
At the same time, it’s probably healthy to avoid those loud and aggressive people who are the center of attention all the time. Just because they’re loud, that doesn’t mean what they have is worth actually listening to you. People who rub you the wrong way, for whatever reason, need to be treated with caution. There are people in my life, in my circle, in my universe, that cause my spirit…stress. They are high-maintenance, demanding or self-involved most of the time. They are demanding of my time to the point of exhaustion – and they do detriment to my spirit. Instead of sticking myself in situations where I have to “endure”, maybe it would be better to be more aware of those situations and don’t put myself in the middle of something I don’t need to be in the middle of – you know?