Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Power of Listening and Listening

Have you ever been in a situation like this: You walk into a grocery store to see a parent "disciplining" their child, not so quietly. Perhaps the child has repeatedly asked for something that is not on the shopping list, or maybe the child is pestering a sibling. Whatever the reason, mom or dad has had it and loudly lets the child have it.

How about this one: You are at a laundry mat waiting for your clothes when you hear one spouse picking at his wife, or her husband... or both spouses picking at each other. Unkind words just flow.

I spend a lot of time in our local grocery stores, and our local laundry mat. You might say I have an addiction to both -- one by choice, the other necessity. Wherever I am it never ceases to amaze me the slew of unkind things I hear escape peoples mouths, directed toward their family members.

I was 25 when I got married, 4 years (or more), older than all of my friends, and many many acquaintances. This gave me a few years to see some different dynamics -- there are many! It also gave me a few years to think to myself, (and I'm sure I still do, often), "Wow, I would never speak to my husband like that!" Or, "I would never want my kids to hear me talk to their father that way...." Or maybe, "You know, maybe your child picked up that behavior from someone close to them... you?" (In my mind it never really sounds like this, it's more like, "Oh dear!" or, "That's so sad!")

I know, isn't that awful? I point my finger at so many people out there when I am so imperfect at this myself. I was a preschool teacher, and also worked for a stint with troubled jr. high students... Oh yeah, and I'm a sister, a daughter, and a wife... Ok, ok, I'm a member of the human race! I am very guilty of treating people with less dignity than they deserve. Sometimes, as a human, things just exit my mouth. But whether an opinion that just couldn't stay put, or some snappish comment, I want to be better.

And so, this past week has been a week of introspection for me. I think the two biggest ways I have found to do better is 1. pray in the morning to feel the love of Christ, and 2. really listen to what others are saying to me. When I really dig deep and stop to hear what my husband is saying, or a sibling, or my dad, that gives me time to... control myself? When I allow it, in that time I feel the spirit whisper to me that there is a better way, and that, for the most part, my agenda is not as important as this other persons feelings. If what needs to be said is important a better way has always been opened up to me.


  1. Thanks for the good reminder, Melissa. Abraham can imitate my "serious" voice perfectly. It's perfectly embarrassing.

  2. Great thoughts Melissa. I was recently on a crowded trail in Yosemite and heard a mother yell, "Trevor, get aWAY from that edge. See? You made me yell. I asked you once nicely, and then I had to yell. I didn't want to have to yell at you. Shee... how embarrassing. Now you STAY on the trail." (Sorry for the unpleasant example.) I thought to myself that it will be very difficult for that child to develop self-control when he feels like being angry, if his mother claims it is he who "makes" her yell.

    Reaching out and taking his hand, warning him about the danger seriously but gently, and diverting his young attention to something other than the trail's edge would I think have done as well. And no one would have had to be "so embarrassed".

    And ps Melissa, you are the kindest person I know.

  3. Melissa, you are the kindest person I know, too!

    I say snappish things sometimes, and I always kick myself for it. Atticus Finch told his kids, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Trying that helps me be more considerate. AND praying for love, as you recommend. :)