Several days ago, I was talking with someone in my family who was in real distress over a situation in his life. The more he talked, the more I felt the discomfort growing inside, but instead of offering an open, nonjudgmental, presence, I gave him “advice” on how he could take better care of himself, stay centered, use this as an opportunity to grow…blah, blah, blah.
Not that all of those suggestions aren’t good, in and of themselves, because they are. They are exactly what we “should” do when faced with overwhelming fear, worry, or concern. But that wasn’t what he was asking from me. In that moment, he needed a compassionate ear, and I offered him, not quite platitudes, but something close to that. I knew it as soon as the words left my mouth…there was a uncomfortable energy that descended and lodged itself between us, and I didn’t have the presence of mind, or the humility, to admit what I’d done, so the conversation ended.
It took me a couple of days to see my part in the rupture. My ego was desperately grasping for justification for my suggestions, and yet, I couldn’t get comfortable inside. I finally asked for clarity, and the willingness to see my part, and I had a dream that night in which I was in real distress, looking for my phone, wanting to call my son, and another family member said to me, in a very haughty way, “We don’t want to be caught up in your drama!” I woke up shortly after and knew I’d gotten my answer.
There is an appropriate time to offer suggestions; when they are asked for. I also need to be honest enough to admit when I can’t listen with an open mind/heart….and that is OK too. I’m a human being as well, and need to be aware of my limitations, but I can always be kind…and I’m not always kind. I hope to become more so in this very challenging time and to not miss opportunities to grow along side and together with those precious people who are in my life❤️
“Listening is not merely a sympathetic nodding or a friendly repetition of hmm, hmm, hmm. Listening is a very active awareness of the coming together of two lives…It is precisely with my own articulate awareness of the piece of the living mosaic that I represent that I can be surprised, sadly or gladly, and can respond from the center of my own life.” Henri Nouwen