On Listening

“Listening is a very vulnerable stance…  Listening is the core attitude of a person who is open to God’s living and creative word.  Prayer is listening to God, being open and receptive to God’s influence.  True listening has become increasingly difficult in churches and institutions, where people remain on their guard, afraid to expose their weaker side, eager to be recognized as successful and bright.  In our contemporary competitive society, listening is often a way of ‘checking the other person out.’  It is a defensive stance in which we do not really allow anything new to happen to us.  It is a suspicious way of receiving that makes us wonder what serves our purposes and what does not.”

—Henri Nouwen


On Writing

“Many think that writing means writing down ideas, insights, or visions.  They are of the opinion that they first must have something to say before they can put it on paper. For them, writing is little more than recording preexisting thoughts.  But with this approach, true writing is impossible.  Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us.  The writing itself reveals to us what is alive in us.  The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write.  To write is to embark on a journey of which we do not know the final destination.  Thus, writing requires a great act of trust.  We have to say to ourselves: ‘I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.'”

—Henri Nouwen