“Whenever people listen to one another humbly and openly, their shared values and aspirations become all the more apparent.”

Pope Francis

I am a terrible volunteer. My job, plus my extroversion, multiplied by my tendency to micromanage and want to improve things usually yields a result that involves me taking on more than I should and inserting myself into things that aren’t really my purview. That said, I try to volunteer as much as possible so that I can support others as others have supported me.

In a recent volunteer endeavor, I was playing a very minor role in a small group project. The person with the most experience seemed to be dominating the direction and kept telling different members why something couldn’t happen or wouldn’t happen. I didn’t even care that much about the topic, but I felt myself becoming frustrated. Before I knew it, I was engaged in a back-and-forth with the group leader and asking him for clarity as to why things couldn’t be done differently. At some point, the group leader abruptly reminded me of my lack of experience and moved us on to the next topic.

He wasn’t wrong about my tenure, but he wasn’t exactly right on what the group was trying to communicate. To his credit he apologized later, acknowledging his jadedness, and we had a great conversation about what we were really trying to accomplish. As we finished our conversation, I had to admit an inconvenient truth. While the group leader’s behavior bothered me, I knew I was guilty of the same behavior in other situations in life and leadership.

We may tend to prize someone’s lengthy experience in a field or subject, but when does what we know, even if it’s true, limit what we can learn? When do we know too much? In our example to others, do we stimulate their curiosity and openness or lock them into a position? In our relationship with the Lord, do we claim to be experts, or do we embrace our role as lifelong students seeking to learn His love?

My volunteer experience reminded me that the most important expertise to develop is that of really listening to the Spirit speaking through others. Prayers for your learning and listening this week.

by Daniel Cellucci

September 12, 2022

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