Saturday, December 05, 2009

Listening to Receive

This morning a thought occurred to me about a subtle difference in listening that can make all the difference in relationship. Last night I saw the movie Everybody's Fine with Robert DeNiro. It was a sweet movie with a simple a painful premise: when we tell people in our lives--especially those to whom was are closely tied--that we are "fine" and cover up the real struggles, events, and happenings, we create a distance that makes our relationships artificial. It's true--I've seen it and lived it in my own life.

There is a school of thought (one I do subscribe to, mostly) that whatever we pay attention to grows. So the tendency to not talk about the bad stuff as a way to avoid making it real is understandable. But there's also that level of "protectionism" (I didn't want to worry you) and fear (I didn't want to burden you) that really can be justifications for hiding.

Some of this ability to speak truth has to do with the quality of listening. If we have rarely been deeply heard and received, telling these kinds of realities about our lives--job loss, fears, relationship troubles, health issues--may leave us feeling very vulnerable and exposed. How can we trust the other person to care and handle our truth in an honoring way if they haven't ever received what we've said in the past? If someone doesn't feel your real presence, if they don't really understand you, if you can stand next to them and feel alone, why would you tell them the deepest things you're struggling with in your life?

I think when we make the choice to be authentic, to tell the truth in love no matter how we are received or by whom, it heals us, for usHopefully the other person will receive what we say--maybe not today, and maybe not this time. But when we're authentic, at least the other person sees it and knows we're making some kind of effort on behalf of our relationship with them. And that decision, made as consistently as we can make it, will sooner or later lighten the air between us so that one day, we'll realize that no matter how the other person reacts, we have shown up authentically in the world. And that's big. And it gets easier, the more you do it. :)


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