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Listening and Learning

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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If hindsight is 20/20, this is a fitting year for an overhaul.

One of my favorite axioms, and I reference this constantly because of its wisdom, comes from my friend Ben Troupe, a former Florida All-American, who says that every single one of us is two people, the person we are and the person we are becoming. When it comes to our responsibility to learn and improve both individually and collectively, more has to be the ultimate measure. No athlete ever thinks they are good enough; every time a first down is reached in football, mind you, measurements move forward and reset once again. Though more complex, life must come with the very same standard.

It's simply not in our nature to settle. And growth, from marking our height on pantry doors to, generations later, counting all of the candles on a big cake, is a constant process. It can be exciting and inspiring, but also chaotic and daunting. Every step forward, however, is a very real progression. Though never a perfect evolution, the more we do, see and study, the more complete we hope we become. There is a reason we call our parent's parents "grand" and their parents "great-grand". Perspective can be something you have to earn, with a full value that can't be counted. That said, experience needs exposure to realize its full potential. 

Life, day-in and day-out, is a lesson. It's our job to take notes. At this point, our binders should be full.

A frame of reference, which we all have, can be formed through friends and family. Faith is the ultimate framework for many. Traveling shapes the mind for some. School to, in a blink of an eye, social security, we all remain a work in progress. We move most-forward in that transformation when we stop talking and start listening, especially to people who may not look or think the same way we do. Communication is a powerful conduit. It's important to make sure we aren't simply seeing and hearing all that is being said, but listening instead. That is how we learn. The magnitude of a day like "Juneteenth" is just one example.

It's worth acknowledging the obvious; listening is hard. Ask the person next to you a question, any question, and count how many seconds it takes for your brain to desperately want you to audibly interject. You have to make a concerted effort to listen. Interrupting is rude, but it's also a human reflex. One sign of maturity is when you can listen to reevaluate, not just listen to respond. Over time can come a paradigm shift, one where long-held, visceral viewpoints can be challenged. Such a search should consume us all.

When a foundation moves, walls of presumption can come tumbling down.

As America goes through a needed reckoning on racial injustice for black and brown people, college football remains directly involved. The advocacy of countless student-athletes, coaches and staffers is something fans, many of whom are obviously also part of the movement, is something to be proud of. The athletic, academic and community responsibilities that come with playing the game are quite significant; using that platform for the betterment of others is empowerment on an even more meaningful scale.  

Recent weeks have come with reconsiderations of past ideas that have long been part of the status quo. As a number of high-profile student-athletes have reminded us, it's our civic obligation to address outdated pretenses and ask ourselves if we, in both thought and in action, are advancing along with time and space. Life has changed in ways nobody could have imagined in a matter of mere decades and our representation of it must move forward as well. Human history has been marked with remakes. They are what we call progress.  

If hindsight is 20/20, this is a fitting year for an overhaul. Like a patient at the doctor's office in for an annual check-up, it should be a basic requirement for us to regularly examine every part of who and what we are -- and respond accordingly. That includes even long-standing flags and freedoms, statues and sayings and issues that, for far-too-long, have gone unaddressed. Knowing the why, and understanding the struggle behind the many efforts for change, will make all of us more caring and complete. Pursuit of the greater good has to be a group effort.   

Regardless of our passions, if we aren't looking for ways to be better, to be more aware and to be more just, what, exactly, are we doing? We owe that to each other and to humanity at-large. Compassion, equality and respect must be our common goal. Advocacy for those who have been overlooked or under-represented must be a leading aspect of our overall progression. We can't be whole while hesitant to value the needs or opinions of others. We have to purposefully work towards that totality.        

To much is given, much is required. All of us have a charge to continue to rally for what is right, starting with our own way of thinking. Even if just a glancing look in a mirror we sometimes don't want to turn to, each of us, in some form or fashion, should see ourselves in other people. It's a reflection and reality alike.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports