Did you ever attend a baby shower for a first-time mother-to-be, and the guests decided to be “helpful”? Get a bunch of moms in the same room sharing their childbirth stories, and it can be scary! The horrors of 38-hour hard labor. The couple who barely makes it to the hospital in time. Frightening trips over icy country roads. The pain of natural childbirth. The side effects of drugs administered during labor. Each tale sounds worse than the last. It’s a bit like playing poker…………….”see you and raise you 10”. On some level, these women want to help the guest of honor, but deep down it seems more about THEM and THEIR need to have the most extreme versions of their OWN stories heard and acknowledged.
How often do our current conversations end up sounding like those baby showers? People talk with us about what’s happening in their lives and how they feel about it. Instead of really listening, our thoughts are consumed with “just wait til I tell you what happened to ME” or “I can beat that” or “don’t whine about what you could have prevented; let me tell you what you should have done differently”. While they are speaking, instead of truly listening, we are plotting ways to flip the conversation, to make ourselves the stars, and to help ourselves feel better.
There is an alternative. Consider these words of scripture:
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing personal opinion.”
“You must understand this, my beloved, let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
Two years into this arduous period of our lives, people need to speak their truths aloud. They need to be heard with compassion, without judgment, without advice, without ego. Let me ask you this: “how many times in the past two years has someone actually allowed the conversation to be totally about YOU?” How often have you received the gift of truly being heard? How many times have the feelings you expressed been acknowledged as valid? Conversely, how often have those feelings been minimized or criticized or dismissed?
I know, dear reader, that you feel tired, exhausted even. Your reservoir of energy may feel like it has run dry. And I know that a part of you wants to feel powerful, helping others by SAYING or DOING something to make things better, to fix things. Taking action makes you feel less impotent. But one of the most powerful things you can do for others is give the gift of silence, to listen to them with empathy. Let them speak their truth aloud, to feel seen, to be heard. And, hopefully, someone will give that same gift to you.
Lord, help me to move beyond selfishness, where it’s all about ME. Move me to convey your love to others by listening with unconditional empathy. Amen
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It’s a big challenge…but can be done. Thanks, Penelope, for this important reminder.