Archive for ‘Listening’

January 7, 2018

Music within — or not? ….. It gets in the way of hearing and loving

by Rod Smith

I have written frequently about listening as a tangible gift of love. Please ponder the following as you exercise your listening skills and grow in this love-skill:

We cannot hear others more than we are willing to hear ourselves. Until I am willing to hear from myself – which means decipher my emotional pains, discern what my daydreams may mean (if anything at all), acknowledge and de-code painful memories and secret longings, face my darker secrets – the noise within my own life will keep me from accurately hearing others.

While I refuse to, or cannot hear myself, your voice will have to compete with my discordant soundtrack.

This is why we “hear what we want to hear” and hear what is not being said. We hear what fits with our unfinished, ignored, or aching symphony. Gosh, I didn’t mean to be quite so dramatic!

It’s a fallacy to think that we have to master our own lives – or successfully expel the discordant soundtrack (to continue the metaphor) before we can really love by listening. That day is unlikely to come for any of us.

Listening to our own inner-music, allowing it to speak to us, embracing it, making peace with it, helps clear the way and empowers us to really hear others.

December 26, 2017

The doldrums are for planning…

by Rod Smith

I call these few days between Christmas and New Year the doldrums. They’re a breather: a time to drift between calendar high points. I get nostalgic. I experience strong elements of necessary regret as I wait for the promise of the new calendar year to kick in.

I am always reminded:

  • Integrity, honesty, kindness, forgiveness, and reconciliation – all captured by the word holiness, is local. By “local” I mean immediate and with the people with whom I share every day life.
  • If it (idea, principle, program) doesn’t work right here, now and with this family member, neighbor, colleague, it’s worthless.
  • All worthwhile positive change is first internal – the outward follows the inward. It may be convenient to switch this – thinking the inward follows the outward – but doing so is a waste of time.
  • It is possible for people to regard each other with deep, authentic respect but it is impossible without commitment to profound listening. All love begins and is demonstrated with listening and listening takes commitment and time.
  • Things are not fair or reasonable or kind while one party is gaining or advancing at the expense of another.

Please, let me know the things you think about as you prepare for your year ahead. I know we can learn from each other – it just takes a commitment to listening.

December 6, 2017

The two E-s

by Rod Smith

Enabling is rampant in many families.

It can involve:

  • Covering for someone so outsiders do not notice or find out about his or her undesirable behavior (drinking, gambling, addictive habits).
  • Relaying lies to a workplace – calling in to say he or she is ill when he or she is unable to work because of the addiction.
  • Permitting, turning a blind-eye, cooperating, letting things go unnoticed to keep the peace or because it feel easier.

Enabling behaviors are often subtle way of disguising who it is in a family who is in need of help. The enabler often appears to be the strong or the healthy one. Control is the name of the game – and family life can feel like one.

Empowering is common in healthy families.

It can involve:

  • Getting out of each other’s way so people can learn from errors and get credit for their successes.
  • Allowing natural consequences to follow choices so people can learn just how powerful really are.
  • Trusting and believing in each other even when things do not go to plan or appear to be falling apart.

Empowered people require the company of other empowered people and all require a strong sense of self. Freedom to discover and to learn are the hallmark of the empowered.

November 26, 2017

Picking up pieces

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I’ve seen women and men painstakingly pick up pieces of their lives after a broken marriage.

This is necessary, natural, and understandable. Deep love, when it ends, at least for one party, is scarily disorientating.

Some never recover. A broken heart can really cause a slow (or a quick) death.

Perhaps you are you tripping over evidence of a terminated relationship. Letters, photographs, or books seem to appear from nowhere and evoke fresh pains or salt for the wounds.

A purge may be necessary, but it’s not for all.

The loot may be all you have. It can become a crucial stepping-stone to greater health. Or it can be a debilitating anchor.

I’ve been confused about why some friendships have ended. I examine memories for clues to what, how, and why things went wrong.

There are times this is unnecessary.

My damaging role is painfully clear.

The pain I caused is deep for others and obvious to me. And, my own and deserved pain is utterly near.

What do we do with our pain – deserved or not?

Options are unlimited once confession occurs.

Confession, of course, does not mean mutual forgiveness is inevitable. It’s not.

Options broaden with confession and commitment to learn from the past.

November 21, 2017

That sane inner-voice…..

by Rod Smith

What’s your inner-voice saying about your diet, spending, gambling, or your role in your family conflicts? I bet you hear or feel the nudge of your inner-voice when you speak harshly to others or are hard or cruel. I thoroughly believe that many of our interpersonal troubles come from the unwillingness or the inability to hear or trust our inner sane voice.

There’s a sane and beautiful person living within you and he or she is trying to get through to you.

If you think things through you will agree that you know what’s good and right, and what is not. I believe we know when we are using others for our own purposes and when we sacrifice their best interests for our own.

We know what to eat and what to avoid.

I know if I am lying or twisting truth in my favor.

Even the most hardened of liars is aware of it – even if the “skill” seems “second nature.”

Of course there are men and women who do indeed have schizoid conditions and to whom this column would not apply – but the vast majority of us have a sane inner-voice that’s aching for a hearing.

Listening in, acting accordingly, would save us an awful lot of pain, trouble, and therapy.

October 17, 2017

Will you be my friend?

by Rod Smith

I am very aware that people don’t analyze their connections in the manner I’ve described below. We’d have healthier communities and families if we did!

  • Will you search with me when I am searching, stand with me when I am standing, and drop to your knees with me in prayer if and when I need it? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you stand up to me with firmness and kindness when my many blind spots are blocking my thinking? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you join me and examine our connection (as casual acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, partners, or spouses) so that we remain mutual and equal and respectful no matter the degree or significance of our connection?
  • Will you take time to listen to me? I will try to take time to listen to you?
  • Will you allow me my quirks and eccentricities and try to regard them as interesting rather than regard them as things you wish were different about me?
  • Will you seek my highest good as far as you are able given the knowledge we have about each other? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you try to be as unafraid of me as I try to be unafraid of you?
October 9, 2017

What did you learn from your father?

by Rod Smith

Nine things I learned from my father – and some of them not too well:

  • “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” This he said when seeing anyone in a tight spot, self imposed or not.
  • “What if it was us, Mavis?” This was his appeal to my mother who tended to want to watch expenses more than he did.
  • Radical hospitality. Stories of our father opening our home to strangers were legendary.
  • “Make your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.” He used this when I was judgmental or harsh.
  • “Don’t carry your fish in a violin case.” My father despised all pretension.
  • “Build bridges; don’t burn them.” My father feared cut-offs.
  • “A man who is going the wrong way down a one-way street already knows it – he needs help turning around.” Forever benevolent, my father championed the underdog.
  • “Rather be fooled because you trusted too much than because you trusted too little.” And, sadly, he was frequently duped.
  • “If the child needs milk the child needs milk – milk is more important to that child than the money is to me.” He’d open his grocery shop at all hours of the night and give milk to the mother of a hungry baby.

What did you learn from yours. Let me know.  

 

October 5, 2017

Weekend superhero

by Rod Smith

The world is disturbed by threats of nuclear war. There have been horrific mass shootings, race riots, and re-emergences of violent extremes.

Entire regions of the world have been destroyed by hurricanes and earthquakes. Millions are homeless because of severe weather and millions more live as refugees fleeing oppressive political circumstances.

May we (you and I) deploy our most powerful individual forces. As limited as we each may be, the world needs a few superheroes and we can each in our own way be one:

  • Design and commit specific, routine acts of kindness and generosity. Make them pointed, uniquely tailored for someone in need. If possible, make your target an enemy and make your act anonymous. The “routine” will help us form healing habits. The “enemy” element will transform us into fine-tuned agents of grace

  • Extend your immediate community by embracing the stranger, the sojourner, the person on the fringe. Resist the urge to create him or her into your own image by expecting your guest to conform to your ways or to convert to your ways. Superhero hospitality accepts people exactly as they are.

  • In the spirit of St. Francis, indeed a superhero, may we seek to console and to serve rather than to be consoled and to be served. I know, I know – it wasn’t supposed to be a direct quotation.

September 24, 2017

Fine acts of parenting

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday 9/25/2017 / I have witnessed many fine acts of parenting:

  • The mother who sends her adult sons and daughters Mother’s Day cards with handwritten lists of joyous memories about what it has been like to be their mother. She has done this for so long that it was some years before the children (when they were children) even knew they were the ones who were supposed to send her cards.
  • The dad who traded in his own car and settled for a used car so he could give his son the sports car his son wanted.
  • The parents who each worked two jobs so the two sons did not have to assume significant debt to attend university.
  • The single mother who has the wherewithal to leave her daughter’s academic struggles up to her and who encourages her daughter to speak up about what she needs to her teachers.
  • The dad who packs his son’s lunch each day for school and who adds an extra pack for his son’s friend who once expressed to the boy that he wished that he too had a dad.
  • The dad who taught his son to share without ever saying it but by showing it at every turn.
  • The parents who never let drinking distort or shape the way they reared their children.
September 20, 2017

Teachers

by Rod Smith

My teachers have never left me. They hover in my awareness and continue their work despite the decades that separate me from their classrooms, lecture theaters, labs, fields, gyms, and studies. Almost all were highly motivated and loved their jobs and regarded it as a calling and I can still hear them calling me to adopt high standards for others and for myself.

The few who didn’t love their jobs, those who landed in the classroom somehow against their will or to test the waters of education, also hover. Their obvious boredom, anger, or their cynicism, were in themselves powerful lessons.

I find it incredible that the teacher with the parrot (Mrs. Bradman) who dogged my third or fourth year of school and the psychology professor who was so self-absorbed more than a decade later and my family therapy professors a lifetime later and nations apart and Mr. Morey, Mr. Graham, Mrs. Hornsby, and Miss Chadwick (I could go on) do the cancan in my frontal lobe at the oddest moments.

I know, I know, someone is going to write and tell me there is medication for my condition – but I think not.

I think it’s a testimony to the power afforded men and women who are teachers.