Q: Since your meditation on Pentecost, I’m seriously trying to do better in hearing people “in their own language” and understanding what I hear. What generally blocks us from doing that? Any tips for how to do that?

A: One obstacle is narrowness. When we only speak and understand one language, it can be difficult to engage with another. Their words don’t make sense. Misunderstanding is likely. The cure for narrowness is breadth, that is, intentionally getting outside your area of comfort and your prior experience. Going to new places, encountering new people, hearing their needs.

A second obstacle is fear. Fear of strangers can paralyze us. So can fear of change, fear of the new, fear of failure – all powerful fears. I don’t know any way to stop fear from occurring. But we do have some control over our reaction to fear: pushing through it, not letting fear become anger, seeing the other more clearly as not an actual threat, deciding not to let our lives be dominated by fear.

A third obstacle is laziness. It takes effort to hear and grasp another person’s meaning. The cure for laziness is repentance. If Scott Peck was correct in identifying original sin as laziness, then the way forward has got to be to by way of confession and forgiveness.