Winston Churchill once stated, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to be silent and listen. And by listen, I mean actively listening. Listening is more than just the absense of talking, it means participating in what someone is saying by considering the perspective they are sharing, thinking about what it would be like in their context, and reflecting back on what they are saying.
Listening to someone you agree with is no big challenge. It's those who we consider "other" than ourselves, those who disagree with our perspective, beliefs, or ideas. They are the ones who make listening a courageous act, as Churchill puts it. Sometimes, listening is more about who you are listening to, than it is about just listening.
As I continue to meet with fellow people and pastors from more conservative leanings in their faith I am amazed at how often their perspective of gay people comes from someone who does not even know, talk to, or have any direct contact with gay people at all. So when I ask them, "Have you actually talked with a gay person about what it is like? Have you asked them, what do you think about the current conservative faith perspective on the issue?" Often times I find that they simply have never asked these questions, and understandably so...they are hard questions and will definitely illicit a response.
Still, on the other side, many gay persons, refuse to talk to anyone of a conservative faith. Many are still hurting from the oppression and ostracization they may have experienced, and understandably so.
It difficult to set aside emotion, to set aside the presumption of what is expected to be heard and begin to truly listen to someone from whom you expect animosity. Speaking as one who can identify with both camps, to again quote Churchill, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."