“It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen. “
–– Oliver Wendall Holmes
It’s always so easy to see solutions for other people’s problems. In the blink of an eye we offer our opinion on just how easy it is to solve their dilemma. Yet try and put those same principles of which we speak onto our own lives, and that’s where it gets messy.
I can’t tell you how often someone tells me of something that is causing them to be distressed, and instantly I start to formulate their solution even before they finish getting their entire story out; let alone as them if they want any feedback. Nope, I naturally assume that if someone is sharing a part of their life with me that they MUST want me to solve their issue.
And then it struck me.
How often do I share things with others not so much for their opinion, but simply to process it myself, out loud, to come up with my own solution to the situation? Or simply just need to get something off my chest and have no desire to have them resolve anything for me.
So what makes me think that I somehow have the right to tell someone else how to live their lives, or solve a problem of which I know very little about?
No, that’s not what I’ve been taught watching others who live a humble life deal with situations like this when they are confronted with them. The best thing I can do is simply listening. Deeply listen, and not try to formulate a response at all. Save perhaps for a nod or comment to let them know that I am listening.
Sacred listening is not one of my best attributes…yet. But as I continue to commit to it throughout the year, I hope to be able to look back on the progress I made and begin another journey from that stepping off point.
The key for me: to simply listen.
It sounds much easier than it is to practice for me. Somewhere in my hard-wiring the thought that I had to have an answer for everything got programmed and it is taking me some serious commitment not even to correct it, but simply to recognize it, either after or better yet, during it happening.
So if you happen to engage me in conversation and I try to solve a problem you never asked for assistance with, please feel free to correct me…hopefully gently…because as much as I would like to think that I’m a tough guy, the soft, sweet, sensitive boy inside of me longs to be nurtured and not scolded.
Just for today I will look for opportunities to practice sacred listening.