Lord, Help Me to Shut Up and Listen!

Kathy has made mention of folks who have a knack for always improving upon the stories of others in a conversation. You know the type, maybe: you mention a malady… and they come up with something still worse, someone mentions a funny moment… and they come up with something they think was/is funnier,…   Yeah, I suspect we all know or have seen someone who’s an artist at conversational one-upsmanship.

As easy as it is to acknowledge this phenomena, what is difficult  and uncomfortable for me is to confess that I am just such an artist.  I heard myself — really heard myself — the other morning in a conversation with a group of men having coffee. Tempting as it is to write it off as something related to a jolt of caffiene, the bottom line reality and truth was that I was obviously not content to just listen to others and their stories. No, to every point or story someone else contributed, I witnessed myself making my own [better?] contribution. Someone out there might try to defend me: “you’re being too hard on yourself, Jim… isn’t that the nature of conversation, after all: to bring your own experience to the table?!” But, no, deep down, I knew this was different than a healthy conversation/dialogue. It was clear to me that mine was very much a monologue of sorts in which I was listening as much as, if not more, to myself as anyone else at the table! And, here’s the kicker: even as I was growing in my awareness of what I was doing, I couldn’t stop!! No listening to that inner voice inviting me to “sit down and just listen.” No! Even with some embarrassment for what I was seeing, I kept on binging on myself.

In some ways, I was and am grateful for this revelation. Fond of the 12-steps as I am, I do believe that recognizing one has a problem and that one is not in control are the beginning of getting the real help they need.

In still other ways, though, I feel a strong remorse and sadness — the source of which is hard to finger. At the very least, it’s the sadness of realizing that I might not be as mature as I’d like or pretend to be.

The implications for this blog — focused as it is on a genuine journey with God and neighbor — is clear: spectacular as some solo dancers can be, it’s clear that the authentic dance and life of God demand partnership and community.  So long as I am inordinately absorbed in myself, there’s no real dancing with others!

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