I have come to appreciate how Friends Couple Enrichment (FCE), with its grounding in Quaker testimonies of equality, integrity, and deep listening, is important not just to couples, but to the wider Quaker community.
The work is important because FCE teaches that peacemaking begins at home. And home is where we practice -- endlessly -- the behaviors that can make us vessels for peacemaking.
I was reminded of this recently when I read an article about anti-racism. The article, entitled “9 Phrases Allies Can Say When Called Out Instead of Getting Defensive,” addresses the fact that even when we mean well, we may unintentionally hurt the people around us, and it can be uncomfortable when that hurt is named. As the title suggests, the author provides alternative responses to the knee-jerk position of defensiveness when someone corrects us over issues of perpetuating white supremacy.
Instead of just saying "Sorry" and leaving it at that, some of the phrases the author suggests are:
“I’m going to take some time to reflect on this.”
“I recognize that I have work to do.”
“I believe you.”
“I apologize, I’m going to do better.”
As I read these phrases, I realized that they are the same phrases that my best self uses when my beloved lets me know I have hurt him.
They are phrases that I can only say if I am willing to admit that I have caused harm, regardless of my intention. They are phrases that honor the experience of the other person as reality. They are phrases that indicate that something just might change because of this interaction. They are phrases that indicate I am listening.
They are phrases that I need to take out into the world with me as I join with my community in the ongoing work of standing up against racism.
I am so glad that my imperfect relationship with my beloved provides a place to practice these non-defensive responses. Surely, practicing peacemaking at home can only strengthen my ability to respond more appropriately when someone lets me know that I have harmed people of color, even unintentionally, by failing to see how my actions (or inactions) are perpetuating a culture that seems not to believe that Black Lives Matter.
Coming February 1st - Friends Couple Enrichment First Monday Lecture at Pendle Hill
A Celebration of Disciplined Listening: Learnings from Couple Enrichment at Home and in the Meeting with Mike and Marsha Green
Quakers speak often of listening: listening for the still small voice, listening to God, listening to each other. A favorite quote from Douglas Steere is about “listening another into wholeness.” But how often do we stop and think about HOW we listen? Do we recognize listening as a spiritual muscle that can be trained and strengthened? Do we offer experiential support to help us learn to listen as a vital part of peacemaking?
In their 22 years of work with Friends Couple Enrichment, Mike and Marsha have come to appreciate how having a structure, or discipline, around listening can transform listening from a passive reception of information into a dynamic, growth-enhancing opportunity. In the past year they have experimented with how to incorporate disciplined listening into the work of Meeting committees, board meetings, emotionally-fraught discussions of racial equity and other opportunities.
In this talk, they will share their experiences of ways that bringing discipline to our listening can affect those around us, and invite participants to experience this discipline.
Learn more about Friends Couple Enrichment and upcoming FCE events (including the February 1, “First Monday Lecture” at Pendle Hill) at www.friendscoupleenrichment.org.
This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of Vital Friends.