The wolf shall live with the lamb;
the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the lion will feed together,
and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6
At its essence, Isaiah 11:6 demonstrates how opposing forces may work together toward a common goal. As a psychologist, I draw upon this fundamental lesson daily when having to support the many children, adolescents, and adults who bring their myriad of perspectives, cultures, parenting styles, and political and religious beliefs to each session in our work together. Oftentimes, these varied perspectives differ dramatically from my own. Nevertheless, I take it as a fundamental imperative to listen to their side of the story – how they perceive the world and their specific circumstances.
As a psychologist you are trained to listen to the underlying messages that your clients share with you. There is no room to let your personal judgments, opinions, or life events cloud your understanding of another’s experiences and feelings. While it is important to acknowledge your own personal beliefs and perceptions, your focus is on the needs and concerns of others. The desire to “teach” or “preach” something as basic as the “golden rule” is often tempting, yet the best approach is to simply listen. It is this empathy and willingness to listen that lays the foundation for understanding and acceptance.
Isaiah’s words have many applications, not least of which is our current political culture writ large. It seems almost impossible that our politicians and their supporters would unite under one common goal, one in which we strive collaboratively for the betterment of the country. Indeed, it may feel easier to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to this situation. Yet Isaiah’s words offer us hope and direction. He shows us that even perceived enemies can live together peacefully through understanding, respect, and “knowledge of the Lord.”
I call on you, dear Jesus. Please help to guide me to listen to and to understand the needs, feelings, and experiences of others. Allow me to be open, to hear, and to empathize with others, especially those that may see things very differently from my own perspective. Teach me, dear Jesus, so that through this work we can learn to create a more peaceful, accepting, and loving world. Amen.