Last night my family sat around a table when the question was asked, “What would you like to do in 2013?” It seemed like a fairly mundane question. The kind of question we all ask ourselves this time of year. Each person was given a turn to answer the question as it made its way around the table. My 6 year old nephew wants to play monster golf, an idea which terrifies my 4 year old nephew. My 4 year old nephew wants to go swimming. . My 9 year old nephew wants to go to Jumpstreet. My 10 year old niece would like a sister. My 95 year old grandmother wants to live one day at a time. Each person had a goal that seemed to fit them well. Finally the question made its way to me. Before I could speak answers started being shouted from around the table. Apparently my family has a lot of ideas about what I should do in 2013.
I eventually answered the question. But I had to wade my way through their thoughts before I could share my own. The same situation carried over to my sister. Ideas and suggestions for 2013 were being yelled at her, as though her year was up for grabs. She ended up saying, “well, you’ve said it all so I guess I don’t have much to say.” After some prodding she did answer the question for her self.
I sat amazed at the power of suggestion and how sharing our ideas about a person’s future can actually get in the way of that person having a voice, sharing their own ideas and giving them space to discover. We often speak for others. We often let others speak for us. We say what we think without being asked and we give our value based, “objective” ideas without leaving room for individuals to own their own lives and stories.
I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn there is injustice when I speak on behalf of others or give unsolicited advice or tell people what I really think, when I don’t have the permission to do so. Last night, my sister and I almost let others speak goals for us. If I wasn’t so stubborn and my sister didn’t have people ask over and again to give her own answer, we could have simply let the thoughts of others cover the truth of what we really wanted to see out of this year.
I desire to be a person who listens first, who asks good questions and who seeks to hear the thoughts of another before I speak. (If I speak) I believe listening is a great practice of the Kingdom of God and I desire to become one who listens well.
What have you learned from the practice of listening?