Getting a new thought
“The reason you’re so good at listening is because you suck at talking.”
I stared across the table into her eyes as my own filled with tears. I blinked them back as I turned my gaze to the view of the surf outside the window. The waves rolled to the shore, slid back out to sea, and rolled in again, oblivious to anything other than their own rhythm and purpose. I glanced back down at my hands folded on the table.
“I know,” I said softly. Because I did know. I do know.
It’s one of those secrets about me hidden in plain sight. Few people are close enough to me know how terrible I am at formulating my intimate thoughts into English language and then being vulnerable enough to put them out there. I blog. I lead life groups. I do dramas on stages. I speak at retreats. Surely I’m a GREAT talker! Look at all these words I know! Look at all these words I use!
And look at how many words I can use that never require true intimacy from me. Look how many require no vulnerability on my part. When I start choking and struggling for language, you know you’re hitting close to home. But most people never see that struggle because I busy myself with listening and never have to speak from that wordless place. I can speak from the places that have lots and lots of words that flow with much more ease.
As I sat at that table I found myself grateful for the extra napkins the waiter left. He must have taken one look at me and figured that I was surely a messy person and would need extra napkins for one reason or another. And he was right. My fingers were messy from my sandwich. My eyes were messy from the fallout of the conversation.
Over the course of the meal I got a solid verbal spanking:
I suck at talking.
I am guilty of living inside my own head.
I rely on others to know what I’m thinking and feeling even though what I’m thinking and feeling goes unspoken.
I withhold at times when I should be giving.
I have an area where I’m operating in spiritual pride.
I need to reject false meekness and walk in boldness.
I’ve been living in too much safety instead of operating at my edge.
I still have lousy boundaries in areas, in spite of much improvement.
There was plenty more where that came from. Each word was a cut, but it was the kind of cut spoken of in Proverbs 27:6:
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
I knew she was the kind of friend I could trust to wound me in mercy, to cut me without malice, to hold my feet to the fire and call me to a higher standard.
I also knew that every word she spoke was true.
“True” isn’t enough to fix anything. I also have to choose to embrace and respond to what was said to me. Truth that receives no response cannot effect change, no matter how true it is.
It is, of course, my habit to hold things like this very closely. After all…it’s private. It’s intimate. But doing so just extends that list of things that require me to repent and reject old behaviors and mindsets and get a new thought.
Why make more work for myself, you know?