It’s Easier to Do Than Listen


Kathy Escobar -Easier to Do Than Listen3

Last week I was at a gathering hosted by one of my favorite organizations in Denver—The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. Each time I am with these folks I am humbled by the beauty of men and women across faith traditions who gather to advocate for justice and change in our city and our state. Our shared values supersede different beliefs, and it’s always inspiring to me to see how many walls break down when we gather around our common humanity.

This meeting had extra special meaning because it was centered on “Facing Racism,” with the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia less than two weeks before.

Lead by two strong, wise, powerful black women who lead Soul2Soul, the air was thick with a willingness to learn, a desire to dismantle racism in our city, and a sorrow and anguish that comes when we begin to wake up to reality.

I could feel it in my own soul and I could feel it in the room. The question we all had rolling around in our heads and our hearts, whether we said it loud or not: “What can we do?”

“What can we do?”

“How can we be part of changing our destructive systems?”

“I can’t stand by. I need to do something.”

“I feel overwhelmed by it all and don’t know where to start.”

I say this almost every day, in my head, in conversations with others—What can I do?

What can we do?

The meeting wasn’t facilitated like that. There wasn’t a space for questions, for us to stand up and wonder about how we could “do something.”

It was about listening. It was about stillness. It was about noticing what was going on in our souls.

One of the leaders, Rev. Dr. Dawn Duval, a brilliant and bold preacher and teacher, said something that struck a deep chord in my soul that I knew I needed to notice.

“Everyone wants to ‘do something’ but no one wants to listen.”

To listen to the raw and real experiences of black men and women without editing or evaluating.

To listen to the realities of black men and women, and sit with their magnitude.

To listen to the wisdom of black men and women, and let it form and shape us.

I want to say that I get it, that I’m willing to listen, that I can suppress my need to “do” and try to listen, but the truth is—I would much rather do than listen.

I want to skip to the do part as fast as I can.


Because it makes me feel better.

It relieves my anxiety.

It gives me something tangible to work with.

I “know” better, but it’s still my reflex.

Let’s hurry up with the listening, so we can move to action.

I encounter this a lot in my context of journeying alongside people on the margins of life and faith. A lot of people want to come “help” but usually they don’t want to become friends, to really listen to the real stories, to be up-close-and-personal with the pain, the realities, the rawness, the vulnerability that we feel when we can’t “help fix” something.

We want to move to “do,” skip to action, put our feet to the ground.

All of that is good, but often what we miss is the deep and painful work of the heart and soul—the ground where real change always happens.

Where we’re willing to examine our privilege.

Where we’re honest enough to admit our racism.

Where we can’t justify or juke or jive.

Where we have to sit with the weight of white supremacy’s damage.

Where we have to confront our denial.

Where we have to carry the brutal realities of others’ stories and not tuck them into some neat and tidy corner.

Yeah, I’d much rather do than listen.

During the meeting the facilitators played an eight-minute audio clip of a first-hand account of Charlottesville. As I listened I could feel my bones chill. I could feel myself wishing it were over. I could feel those eight minutes stretch on and a sense inside that I wished it would be over soon so I could open my eyes and move to a conversation about action.

But I also got a new glimpse into my need to listen when it comes to the deep insidious roots of racism.

I knew then that I needed not eight minutes or 18 or 80 or 800 minutes of listening, but 8,000 and then 80,000 and 800,000.

My responsibility is to not do a heart and soul bypass by moving to the safety of action, but to do the deeper far more vulnerable work of listening, of moving toward the stories, to face them and listen and then listen some more.

SheLovelys, I know we are called to action and so many reading here are dedicated to activism and change in really beautiful ways. Please don’t let what I’m sharing minimize that in any way.

I’m not going to stop advocating for justice in many of the ways I have been, but I do know that these words of wisdom seared my heart in a way I can’t just skip over.

It’s easier to do than to listen.

There’s still a lot of people with power and privilege dominating the conversations, inserting our methodologies, working to relieve our anxieties, and letting our desire to “do something” override the thing that might be the hardest to do—