Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Less is More

You just need to relax and everything will work out the way it's supposed to work out.
Trust in God.  He'll take care of it.
Keep praying about it.  Everything happens at the right time.
Here's a book to read.  This is really great information.
I heard this sermon and it really spoke to me about [that issue].
Just hang in there and it will get better.
God knows best.  It's not for us to understand His ways.
Well, everything happens for a reason.

How many times have we heard women complaining that men are in fix-it mode when they offer support to us?  "I just want him to listen to me!" is the cry of frustrated women. 

Yet I've often encountered well-meaning women, quick to offer "helpful" advice like the comments above instead of being willing to listen without fixing.  Sometimes I feel that I can hardly share a messy feeling about God or about life in general without a spiritual SWAT team swooping in to the conversation.

Now hear me out--some of this is good.  I'm not arguing that the statements shared are without truth.  I love that women want to help, that they want to see others heading in a healthy direction.  I love that they offer resources. Yet the most effective support I've experienced has been with those women who listen without jumping to advise.  I have one friend who shares a common life situation with me and her most frequent response when I'm struggling to find a solution is...ready for this?  I don't know!  I don't know what's best for you.  But I know that you are a great mom and that your constant efforts to improve and grow are a gift to your family.  I'm struggling too so I know what it feels like for life to be messy.  I get discouraged too.  I get it.  I'm here for you whenever you need to talk. 

From that springboard, she and I dive in to parenting and family and faith and theology and home decorating and gardening (she's not just a great friend, she has great taste!).  She models for me the concept of giving grace with truth.  She understands that a quick platitude, spiritual or not, often shuts down conversation instead of opening it up.  She stays in the trenches with me instead of striding ahead. She answers truthfully, even if it's not easy.  She doesn't draw premature conclusions about what it is to walk in my shoes, but respects that each of our stories is unique and valuable.  I walk away from her feeling HEARD and reinvigorated, instead of feeling diminished and unseen as a result of well-intentioned "counseling."

I'm a talker, a chatty woman who can talk a mile-a-minute, as the old saying goes.  I often have so many topics on my heart and I'm pretty open about sharing.  This listening thing doesn't come naturally, but I'm trying to take my own experiences with me when I engage with other people.  I'm developing awareness in myself to...
  • Stay present in the moment, not letting thoughts wander to another distraction.
  • Stay true to my feelings and thoughts, not saying what I think would be most palatable to the listener.
  • Practice staying focused on another's story and not quickly transferring the conversation over to mine.
  • Truly care about the other person, demonstrating empathy.
Friends like this can be rare.  People like this are rare.  I'm thankful for those rare people!  You help me become better and lift me up when I need it most.  I'm learning how to keep my mouth shut and open my ears and my heart instead.

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