Posted by: ritagone | August 24, 2011

Please Shut Up!!

         You know the type: they drone on and on about their lives, hardly coming up for breath.  They never ask you anything about your life or what’s happening with you because, frankly, they really don’t care.  And they believe, of course, that whatever is going on with you couldn’t possibly be more interesting or more worthwhile than what is going on with them, so why should they bother talking or asking about it?

Oh yes, they are believers!  They have surely been indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  So that’s not an excuse.  They can’t get off scot free with, “If only they would come to know Jesus, they would be so much more outward turned and concerned with others.”  They do know Jesus, because you’ve seen fruit in their lives of a most definite nature.  It’s just not manifested anywhere near normal two-way conversations.

To be honest, this is a real hot-button topic with me, and I think it’s becoming more and more so the older I get.  It’s gotten to the point where I actively avoid those people who I know will behave this way.  Life is becoming way too short to spend it listening endlessly to someone drone on and on about their lives when what I’m looking for is a two-way conversation, give and take, you tell me something about your comings and goings and I’ll tell you about mine.  I do believe that with people like this, if you had terminal cancer, it wouldn’t matter at all in terms of how much attention you would get, and somehow I find that intolerable.  In fact, I’m often tempted when cornered by such a person to thrown in the mention of a fatal diagnosis just to see what it conjures up.  I suspect in most cases not much.  Is it that I’m so self-centered that I want attention too?  Perhaps.  But I think it also has to do with my sense of fairness, of justice, and of equity.  You talk, then I talk.  That’s the way conversations are supposed to go.  And when they are completely one-sided, over and over again, I find myself steering clear of those people and directing my attention instead to the people who are more reciprocal in their dialogue because, well, it’s just more fun and more interesting talking to them.

You know, if we’re really to live like Jesus, it seems to me that these one-sided people are way, way off the mark.  Because, let’s face it, if anyone had the right to talk about His life, His experiences, His background, it was Jesus Christ!  Come on, how could you top “I was in heaven from all eternity with God my Father since the beginning of time,” for a conversation piece?  You can’t.  Or the ever-popular “I walked on water.”  And yet you never saw Jesus monopolizing conversations around town, pidgeon-holing people with His escapades and making them listen interminably to “Did I ever tell you about the time I healed the lady with a 20-year old disease, easy as pie, when no one else could?”  No, He was too busy listening to everyone else, hunkering down to the level of a child or putting His hand on the shoulder of a leper or stopping to understand the hurt and anguish behind the sarcasm of a woman by a well, isolated and abandoned by her neighbors because her life didn’t measure up to what everyone around her thought it should be. People who wouldn’t listen to her until Jesus came along and listened and just let her talk and talk and talk.

So if we are indeed to live – and love – like Jesus did, and if these are going to be more than mere words and platitudes, if we are really to mean them and display them for everyone to see, we’ve got to shut up.  Simple.

Shut up!

Stop talking!

Stop talking for a change about your life and your comings and goings and what’s going on and what you think and why as if the sun revolves around those opinions and interests.  Because – quite frankly – it doesn’t.  Oh, there are times when it’s important and necessary for you to have your say, when what’s happening in your life is significant, and when your friends and loved ones want to know what’s going on.

But not all the time.  And not with nauseating detail all the time.  And not to the exclusion of everyone else in a conversation.

Practice listening for one day.  Really listening like Jesus did.  You will be amazed at what you will hear and what you will learn.  I guarantee you that your capacity for getting inside someone else’s heart and mind will broaden when you’re not trying to figure out a gap in the dialogue during which you can jump in with your fascinating comments or bon mots and witty repartee.  Just giving all of that up will release you and free you to be the kind of listener Jesus was, someone who could listen unabashedly with both ears and a whole heart.

Last time I blogged, I talked about being countercultural.  Frankly, in a society that is as self-centered as ours is, I can’t think of a more countercultural activity than this, no exceptions: to actively listen rather than seeking when you can jump into a conversation, to really hear the other person instead of wanting to dominate the talking, to truly care what he or she is saying so that they feel loved and validated.

Now THAT’S being countercultural at its finest and most exhilarating!

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Responses

  1. I would write something, but I think you might get mad at me. Just kidding. Just read a E Peterson book and “listening” he says is one of the 3 main functions of a pastor. Now that is counter to much of my experince with pastor types. 🙂

  2. I’m tracking with you on this. After going through Life Coach training I became acutely aware of how few people on the face of the earth LISTEN. It’s rather sad when you realize many of them are people you consider friends. Leaves a bit of a void in the relationship on my end. Even if they do ask you a question, you wonder if they really hear your response or are they forming their next statement. How do we revive this?

    Ever thought about teaching a class on it? Would anyone come???

    • Sheryl, I’m not sure how to deal with these people either. I think this behavior is probably so habitual and ingrained that were you to tell them of it, they would deny it first, then probably be unable to stop doing it. We’re probably all like this. It has just made me more aware of trying to be a better listener, which is ultimately all I can expect of myself. I think people would come to a class and think about how guilty other people are of this misdemeanor, don’t you???


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