When People Just Don’t Listen

I had a very uncomfortable exchange with someone at church Wednesday night.  

We have a light potluck dinner each Wednesday before Bible Study and I’m on kitchen duty.  So I was uncovering dishes, adding spoons and getting things ready when conversation erupted around me about a “horrible wreck just up the road.”

I kept silent and tried to focus on the plastic wrap and aluminum foil but couldn’t help hearing the animated relaying of detail after detail until it reached a crescendo ending in someone declaring that, “Well, those people just drive too fast.  They don’t even care about themselves.”  

You might guess where this is going.  

Yep.  Couldn’t take it anymore so I said, “Most young people feel invincible.  They think it won’t happen to them.  If they knew they might really die and all that meant, they wouldn’t do it.”  

Which kind of slowed them down but didn’t stop them.  

So I asked, “Is the guy OK?”  Wanting a simple answer not an account of grisly details.  

Instead, the main speaker turned to me and began to share all he could remember in the brief time he had to take notes as he was crawling slowly by the accident scene.  (I won’t recount them here to spare hearts but let’s just say for those of us whose child left for Heaven by road accident, it was entirely. too. much.)

I looked at him and said, “That’s enough.”  He kept talking. 

I looked at him again and said, “That’s enough.  My son was killed in an accident.”  He kept talking.  

I finally raised my voice, called his name and said, “That’s enough!  Stop talking!”  He turned away like I had lost my mind.

I followed him a couple steps and said, “My son died in an accident.  I don’t want to hear those kinds of details.  Didn’t you see that I was crying?”  

His response:  “Well you asked.  No, I didn’t see you crying.”

Walked away.

Everyone heard it but no one was listening.  Everyone saw it but no one was willing to come alongside and put an arm around me.  Everyone knows about my son but knowing hasn’t sunk in deeply enough to grow seeds of compassion.

I was shaking and wanted to leave right then but didn’t.  

I’m not so tender now at five years that simply hearing about an accident upsets me.  My mind goes immediately to the family and I breathe prayers for abundant grace and mercy.  I never want others to  feel they can’t share genuine prayer requests or concerns.

But I do not want details.  I do not want a blow-by-blow nor anyone’s haughty opinion that it won’t happen to them or theirs because they “take precautions”.

I am utterly undone that after years of gently trying to help the people I worship with understand the tender places in a bereaved parent’s heart, several of them stomped all over mine.

I know words slip out.  I don’t want anyone to walk on eggshells around me. 

But I do want to be heard.  

When I tell you that I need you to stop sharing something with me, please just stop.  

Are you going to burst if you don’t let the words out?  

Probably not.  

But you might well break a bit of my heart if you don’t.  

dragging heart

Repost: Lessons in Grief-Learning to Listen

I admit it:  I’m a fixer.

It’s probably genetic (won’t mention any names!) but it has been reinforced by training and life experience.

When faced with a difficult or messy situation, my mind instantly rolls through an inventory of available resources and possible solutions.

And I tended to cut people off mid-sentence with my brilliant (?) plan to save the day.

But there are things you just can’t fix.

Read the rest here:  Lessons in Grief: Learning to Listen

The Art of Listening

We’ve all experienced it and probably been guilty of it as well:  listening with one ear while anxiously waiting to reply or to make a getaway.  

I hate that.  

What I LOVE is people who really listen.  

I knew a woman once who made me feel as if whatever I was telling her at that moment was the most important thing in the world.  She would look me in the eye,  often take my hand, and never made even the slightest body movement to suggest she had things to do or people to see or anywhere else to go.

Even when we were talking about the most ordinary things.

I want to be like THAT.  

I want to make every single heart that shares feel honored, loved, heard and safe. 

speak so others listen listen so others speak

 

 

Lessons in Grief: Learning to Listen

I admit it:  I’m a fixer.

It’s probably genetic (won’t mention any names!) but it has been reinforced by training and life experience.

When faced with a difficult or messy situation, my mind instantly rolls through an inventory of available resources and possible solutions.

And I tended to cut people off mid-sentence with my brilliant (?) plan to save the day.

But there are things you just can’t fix.

I knew that before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven but I mostly ignored it.

I can’t do that anymore.

heart leaf torn

 

So I’m learning to listen better.  Learning to let others express the hard things that can’t be fixed so that their burden is a bit lighter for the sharing.  I’m learning that silent hand holding or hugging or just looking someone in the eye instead of dodging their gaze is a great gift.

I’m learning that lending courage is possible.  One heart can actually beat in synchrony with another and the duet is musical and magical strength.

I’m learning that there are too many voices shouting “solution!” and too few ears listening to the full expression of a problem.

I’m learning that often my rush to remedy is hurtful, not helpful.

I’m learning that time does not heal all wounds-there are many among us bearing injuries that may be decades old but have never been spoken aloud because no one would listen.

we all need people who will listen to our stories

I’m learning that even the spoken stories need to be repeated often and with just as much emotion each time because the telling has a way of releasing pain all it’s own.  

I’m convinced that if we were a society of listeners who slowed down just long enough to really HEAR other people’s stories we’d be a society with much less pent up anger, bitterness and other dark emotions.

sometimes you can hurt yourself more by keeping feelings hidden

I’m embracing the old saying, “God gave us two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we talk”.  

Sometimes that means literally biting my tongue or placing my hand over my mouth.  

But I’m trying not to waste this hard-bought lesson.  

Need an ear?  

I’m here.  ❤

friends hugging

 

Pressure Relief Valves and Blowing Off Steam

I use a pressure cooker when canning some things from the garden.  It’s the only way to ensure food safety for low-acid, low-sugar foods.

It took me awhile before I could work up the courage to use that contraption-when a pot comes with warning labels about “check to make sure seal is intact before every use” and “always be certain pressure cock is seated properly and working”-well, that’ll make you think twice about how much you want canned beans come winter.

I imagined all kinds of awful scenarios the first time I fired up the stove under that big cooker.   But none of them came to pass.  Sixty minutes later and all was well.

Pressure-canner

I’ve thought a lot about my pressure canning days recently and how that pot is uniquely created to allow just enough steam to escape to keep it from exploding.  Sure, it gets mighty hot (that’s the point-to kill the bacteria) but not so hot that it bursts into lethal metal shards all over the kitchen.

I feel like so many of us (bereaved parents or not!) are like that pressure cooker-boiling and roiling with heated emotions getting hotter and hotter and threatening to explode.

Some of us do.

It’s messy or even dangerous.

angry

I’ve thought about how critical that relief valve is to the proper function of the pressure cooker and how people need relief valves too.

Some of us find relief through hobbies or exercise or journaling or praying.  But many of us can only relieve our sense of building pressure by talking to another person. 

We need to be HEARD and SEEN in order to let off steam.

We need someone to be the relief valve for our pent up feelings so they don’t spew uncontrollably over everyone and everything. 

So when you are thinking about what YOU can do for someone going through a tough time, here’s a thought:  Offer to meet them and let them talk.  Just let them say whatever they need to say without correcting them or judging them or steering them toward safer topics of conversation.  

Just listen. 

Offer appropriate comments now and then so they know you are paying attention but let them empty their hearts of the pent up steam of strong emotions.

Then keep all the secrets they shared in your own heart.  Don’t spread them around to others and don’t use them later as ammunition or leverage.  

listening is a postive act

Listening is love in action.

Providing a safe space for a heart to let go is one of the best gifts of all.  ❤