I recently asked a friend to tell me the truth. He, in turn and in part, asked me, “Do you think you’re BETTER than everyone else? Do you think you have to PROTECT everyone?”. I spend lots of time thinking about my answer to that question. My responsibility to answer isn’t to satisfy him. My responsibility to answer is so I KNOW where I stand on these (at least) 2 issues. Do I think I am better? Do I need to protect people?
I am a plain-old, garden-variety, flawed guy who is making his way through fatherhood, husbandhood, self-discovery, self-worth, self-doubt, professional effort and fatigue, the same as most other humans on the planet. Maybe not everyone spends much time on the “what is my worth/value/magnum opus” issues of today. I DO spend time on that – whether it is evident or not is very hard to say. We all have our individual journeys, but at our essence, we are much the same. I think the difference is that I expect MORE from MYSELF.
I am a sarcastic SOB sometimes. I don’t mean to be cruel with my wit, but I too often catch myself wishing I hadn’t said what I just said. My understanding about the line between humor WITH someone and humor AT someone is paltry. I speak to score the laughter before I really process WHY we will be laughing. Conversational popularity is more important to me than the resulting damage, until I see the blood seep from the nick of the blade. I need to stop doing that.
I am, however, good at recognizing and am sensitive to bullying, browbeating, heckling, hazing, humiliating. I probably see it in the “target” more than I see the initiation by the “perpetrator”. I’m not good at seeing where the arrow CAME FROM, as it were, and am even worse at understanding WHY the arrow was fired in the first place. I feel a responsibility to steer us away from thinning ice before we hear the cracking of a soul or spirit, for instance. And I’m careful to couch my answers in calming words, rather than divisive rhetoric.
My philosophy and belief system start with “everyone deserves dignity”. If that element of dignity is absent, deliberately or otherwise, I immediately stall in my understanding of any given situation. My brain, when I listen to the better angels of my nature, doesn’t move past the person or group of persons suffering. It’s the golden retriever in me.
Another by-product of the golden retriever in me is a need to know how everyone around me FEELS. “How do you feel about that?”, I’ll often ask. Not so much as a counselor with a client, but as a curious observer of my world. The good part of this drive is that I get to hear how people feel; they tend to open up, let down their guard, and share. We, the five of us, had a wonderful conversation about spirituality and eternity with our children the other day. No judgment, no guilt, no expectations – just ‘where are you’ and ‘tell us more’. Driving together, after dark, seems a really safe place to have that conversation. Dark takes away those ‘non-verbal’ cues that I tend to be hyper-aware about that indicate dissension or disagreement. Truth dies when non-verbals take over. Also, bathing a tough topic in grace lends itself to a truth and honesty that can co-exist with differing viewpoints.
The down side to wanting to hear it all is that sometimes I hear that I am the problem. Sometimes my actions made the conflict worse. Sometimes my words forced an issue that was better left alone. Sometimes I charged up a hill of an issue that I didn’t need to attack, or that wasn’t my issue to force. Although there are lots of instances where there is more than one truth, sometimes the stark reality is that I, indeed, even WITH my golden retriever need for peace and my negotiation superpowers, made things worse.
This truth in love doesn’t always happen when I talk with people I care about – don’t get me wrong; it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s ok – peace and blessings and live and let live.
All this is prologue to my real point of this writing: I can be afraid to hear another person’s truth and bottom line.
Because what if I can’t reconcile it to my world belief? Or what if I can’t find a way to please us BOTH with our respective realities? What if it’s a DEAL-BREAKER???????
Ultimately, I still want to know, “How do you feel?”.