More Obeying, Please
Posted on January 12, 2015

I find the study of words a source of unending delight: the language they came from, the original meaning and how that evolved into something very different with the passage of time.

Having dinner with friends the other evening, friends who were celebrating their 51st wedding anniversary, we naturally talked of their ceremony half a century ago. Jokingly, I asked if she had promised “to love, honor and obey.” She laughed and said, “No, and I wouldn’t have done it anyway.”

Then I noted that, in its Latin origins, obey means “to listen to”, and our conversation took another turn as the couple considered how listening to each other had been part of the secret of their long happiness together, as he had followed a very public career and she had been an integral part of that life.

We then spoke of the failure of so many of us to really hear each other. We have more means of easy communication than our ancestors ever dreamed of, and we know less and less of the ideas, hopes and dreams of others. Maybe we need more “obeying” in the original sense, more hearing people through before we reject their ideas, more genuine listening and less social media time.

I do know that more and more of us get labeled and categorized, without anyone’s asking if we’d like to be in that group. We all do this when we speak of groups as if they were one unit: the teens, the twenties, the seniors, the Democrats, the Republicans, the conservatives, the liberals. Are those units really monolithic?

And if we should shift to religious groups, the failures to individualize are greater. No two Jews always think alike, much less two Lutherans or two Catholics. Finding common ground means we accept some things as belonging to all of us, but much of the rest is up for discussion.

I am ready to march under a banner of “More Original Obeying”, but I know my banner will be misunderstood because I won’t have time to explain it before it is rejected. However, I am ready to listen. Are you?


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