How do you listen? Are you the kind of person who thinks about the answer to the question before the question has even been asked? Do you look away whilst the question is being asked, think for a moment and make a noise and say something entirely unpredictable? Or do you listen fully, lean in and take note?
I would LOVE to say that I was like that, but sometimes I go back into my box and listen to the words in the context of my pre-existing frame of reference, without thinking that it might be wrong.
I guess that my deeper thought for tonight is – when can we and how can we receive something new in our lives; either critique or pointers for the future when we all bring back the words into a box and examine them with the same field of reference?
Do we need to have our box totally replaced or broken for us to learn something new about ourselves? Do we indeed learn anything new or are we all just learning the same hold hash-brown narrative?
I was thinking about this the other week, as when we receive things said by other people we can either listen or not listen. I try hard to listen, but I have to be honest and say that I have a threshold – if something hurts when I think about it I tend to press the auto-reject key and if something is said unpleasantly by someone who is not one of my “best-friends” I almost ignore them.
I realise that all of you reading this are absolutely perfect and weigh and measure critiques and “learnings” perfectly, but I must confess that I do not. The extent to which I accept or reject something tends to be based on a supremely baseless assumption – that I am the one who knows myself the best and therefore am sole gatekeeper of the words that are spoken over me. I have this “I know myself” assumption despite the fact that my sister knows when I am going to cry before I do!
The odd thing is that over the last few months I have realised just how fragile my assumption about “knowing myself” really is and I have begun to question whether I really know myself as well as I think I do. Do I know what I like to do for fun for instance? Do I know what my favourite foods are ( pizza! ) and do I know what my favourite colour is?
These may sound like simple questions but let’s dig a little deeper; do I know what I felt when I reacted the way I did? What was I displaying that I cannot actually articulate to the person in front of me? Am I making this box up and am I actually trapping myself up in a constricted way of “being” so that I do not have to try anything new ? These may sound like borderline navel gazing on my part, and I make no apologies for this, but I am simply trying to articulate what it is like to actually process how we listen well.
How are you at listening to God? I have found God tends to love it when I have a glass of wine.. why? Because it might be the only time during the whole week that I actually sit in his presence long enough for him to speak to me without agenda on my part.
When I choose to acknowledge that he might have something to say on something in my life and give him the free reign he talks to me. It still hurts and I guess I still struggle with the auto-reject here too. Only because God is someone who I talk to everyday I will eventually get tired of pressing the button and may eventually have to listen as well! Maybe with God it is different because the critique is done with context and love.
I feel though… I want to grow beyond having to put stuff in a box you know? I want to give people the freedom in my life to be themselves around me and to critique and point in my life without having to dress it up so that it is somehow “acceptable” in my mind. Life is not like that – it does not dance to your tune.
I feel, strangely like although I have questioned a lot in myself over the last few months, somehow the lack of a box – or rather the flimsiness of the box made what was said to me difficult but impactful. I had to listen to it, because my walls were down or half way up, rather than fully fledged.
I had to respect and give an ear because I could not see how my assumptions about myself were any better. Perhaps in this moment, the sheer lack of context meant that I was in a good place to receive criticism.
I am still working and growing in this – growing in my reactions and thinking through whether I allow those words to shape me; but I can tell you that the box, when down and deconstructed, holds more than you think.
Rosie Robinson resides in Manchester where, in between feeding herself coffee and bagels she works for an international financial services organisation. She attends a lively church called Audacious, enjoys reading, running and watching films and slowly discovering life with Jesus.
Rosie Robinson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rosie-robinson.html
Rosie Robinson is a PSI young writer based in England.