Kempis writes this (1,9) in the context of speaking of our opinions, which we hold dear, and how it is often for the best to defer to others whose views are more trustworthy.
Many of the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who tormented Him so with their constant accusations, attempted traps, and conniving, thought they had it all figured out. They were the smart ones, the learned ones. They had studied, debated, and taught the Scriptures. They were the Lord’s special envoys, those closest to Him. They deserved the respect of the Jewish faithful.
So, when someone comes along who questions their hearts and threatens their status they quickly go from suspicion, to vile accusations (like the ones in the headline from today’s Gospel — Mk 3:22-30) and, in short order, to conspiring to kill Jesus. Were some open to Jesus’ words and moved by Jesus’ miracles? Yes. But we don’t hear of many (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were two such men). They needed to listen more attentively and speak less frequently. In short, they needed humility. Unfortunately, when they received a dose from Jesus, it seems that few learned their lessons.
What about us? We love our own opinions. We often think we have it all figured out. What can he say to enlighten me? What can she say that would be worth my while? Well, a little humility is in order for us as well. You, like I, have likely been surprised many times by persons who, at first blush, we felt had nothing to contribute to our knowledge or perspective only to find deep insight from those who have different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives than we do. When we are willing to not just hear, but listen, we grow. And maybe we just might hear God speaking to us through our interlocutors.
Let us remember the old adage: the good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.