I’m learning that I’m only persuaded to write when something moves me emotionally. It isn’t at all a bad thing, it’s just another thing I’ve come to notice about me.
That being said, my story begins Saturday night when I went on a walk with a new guy in our house named Joey. He has an incredible story that’s still very much in the making, but God’s doing some amazing things in him as well as with him. He’s a solidly built white guy with pulsating blue eyes, lanky limbs, and a playful energy about him. In truth, he reminds me of a Great Dane, one that thinks it’s a small dog and is always trying to do things like jump into your arms and lay on top of you when you’re sitting on the couch. Heh, ever had a dog like that? You can’t help but to love someone like that, he’s just such a lovable guy!
Anyway, we went on a walk at his beckoning and had a conversation. He’s had a pretty difficult life and these couple of weeks here at Lakeside have been an emotional roller coaster for him, so I’ve had several opportunities to hear him out as he releases some of his stress. I actually really enjoy being that person for people, but last night, I learned something about myself again. Okay, I didn’t really. I just observed it for the first time since reading Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus: I took some of his venting personally.
I don’t take kindly to people talking about my loved ones, and as he expressed his frustrations, some names of people at Lakeside came out. When this happened, I immediately felt fire course up through my veins and my face flush with silent fury.
“What he’s saying isn’t true!” I remember thinking. And if that weren’t enough, his feelings started powerfully contradicting each other and his conversation started going in circles. It nearly drove me to insanity listening to him. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I cut him off calmly.
His response, “No, just listen.” came firmly but with no edge. That was the Lord’s grace for sure.
He continued on and after a couple of minutes of unabashed and extreme restraint on my part, he allowed me to speak. My response?
“All I hear are conflicting emotions battling back and forth, what are you going to do about them?” Wrong response.
Thankfully, he was able to frustratingly but calmly respond. [If he were someone else specifically, my stupidity would have almost certainly ended the conversation] He agreed and with my assessment and proceeded to vent some more. This sent me right back down, albeit more slowly this time. I was calling the book back to memory so that I could respond more appropriately.
He asks again, “What do you think?”
“I feel like you just attacked me,” I knew I had to choose my words carefully, “I know you weren’t trying to, but when you talk about my [Lakeside] family, it hurts me.”
He quickly apologizes and begins communicating in a different way, and we walked home happily ever after.
I’m not even gonna spend the rest of this post addressing all of my mistakes in detail, because the fact is that I learned from them as the conversation went on. This is just a public debrief so to speak.
Mistake #1- From the beginning I was listening to fix an issue, not to simply sympathize, that’s why my listening was impatient when he went in circles.
Mistake #2- I took his venting personally. why? Because I was listening to fix a problem, and that made him sound accusing when he really wasn’t.
Mistake #3- Actually, upon closer inspection, what I would’ve written here is an offshoot of Mistake #1 (Actually mistake #2 was too, but I’ve already typed it and I’m too lazy to delete it.)
So to sum everything up: The problem is that I’m listening the wrong way still. I need to practice compassion and not critical thinking. “Nuff said.