Listening is Not Agreeing –
Late last week someone said something about me and that I didn’t agree. At first, the emotion was to respond, defend myself, dig in my heels, push back against the criticism. It wasn’t something overwhelmingly harsh but it did rub me the wrong way.
Instead of responding right away I sat with it for a bit and reflected on it. Oftentimes critiques are met with resistance. We want to defend ourselves. However, if we are too quick to jump our own defense we might miss something constructive. There’s an old wisdom saying; “Both criticism and compliments should be taken with the same weight.” Receiving compliments and praise can be easier but they have a way of pumping up our ego and sense of self. Criticisms, if held on to, can create bitterness, rivalry, and ruptured relationships.
One of the greatest disciplines of contemplative listening is found in the truth; “Listening is not agreeing.” When someone speaks to us a compliment or criticism we do not have to own it, take it inside of us, let it mingle with our minds, emotions, and spirits. We can examine it, turn it over in our minds and, if we have self-awareness, can decide if it is meant for us, to grow, to learn, to let it become a part of us. Perhaps its simply another’s opinion and through insight and stillness, we discover that we can let it go. It’s not for us.
“The mark of a wise mind is the ability to hold a thought in our heads
and not necessarily believe it to be true.” #Aristotle
For the last few days, we have had a lot of rain. It’s remnants of Hurricane Harvey the horrendous storm which slammed into parts of Texas earlier this week leaving devastation in its wake. Most of the morning and afternoon I have listened to the rain fall on the tin roof of our porch. It’s a mesmerizing and relaxing melody. There is a wisdom proverb which says; “Some people feel the rain other simply get wet.” I am of the former variety. I feel rain, storms, overcast skies. There are times when a rainy day is nourishment to my soul. It’s like the water falling from the sky is landing on my parched spirit and bringing needed comfort and nourishment. In other seasons the overcast clouds and rain dampen my motivation and put me in a trance where I get nothing done.
“Without rain, the flower does not grow.”
Like the flowers, trees, bushes, and grass we need rain in our lives. We need times of growth and blossoming. However, too much rain, as Houston and other Texas areas dealing with Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, can drown, devastate, and destroy.
Rain, like life, can be beautiful and dangerous.
Want to See –
Last spring my wife planted some Petunias in a steel bucket that sits in our front yard. This spring she’s been too busy. In place of the beautiful flowers we had last year there are several weeds growing. This afternoon, while mowing the grass, I looked in the steel bucket and there was one single pink Petunia. It was small, crowded and shadowed by the weeds but it was there none the less. If I wasn’t looking in the right place and the right time I would have missed it.
Life can be similar to the small flower in that bucket. There are plenty of weeds; stress, schedules, emergencies, life changing decisions, habits, hang-ups, and hurts. It can be easy not to see the good when we are surrounded by so many things which crowd our lives and shadow our hearts. However, if we keep looking, daring to hope and dream perhaps we will see the beauty of kindness, grace, and love blossom before our eyes.
Whew! Spent most of the day framing in the porch. We are almost ready for the screening and the end is in sight. There’s a good tired feeling after a day’s worth of hard work and feeling as if you’ve accomplished a lot.
To finish out the day I watered our plants and flowers. It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve had any rain and they were quite thirsty. In the front yard, we have four Blue Spruces. We bought them at the same time and they looked the same; small and a bluish-green. However, today, when I was watering them I noticed they all looked different. They were planted at the same time, are basically in the same place. They receive water, mulch, pruning at the same time and yet they are growing in disparate ways. One is taller, one is “fatter”, one has two stems on top, and one looks bigger than all the others. Even though they’ve received the same amount of attention, sunshine, rain, hot and cool days, the are not the same.
Wisdom teaches us that people are similar to the Blue Spruces. They grow at different rates, in different ways, at different times. Often we forget how unique each of us are in how we mature emotionally, mentally and spiritually. We are tempted to judge negatively those who aren’t keeping up with others only later to perhaps discover an unexpected growth spurt from a “late bloomer” has surpassed them all. Patience. Acceptance. Perseverance. These are all needed attributes when measuring the growth and maturation of those around us.
“Never judge a person’s progress no matter how slow.” -Plato
Last winter the Mrs. and I bought four Baby Blue Spruces and placed them in nice decorative pots. We thought they’d give the house a sense of the holiday seasons and they did. However, now that the spring season has arrived in full force our little Christmas trees aren’t so small and are quickly out growing their present place. So, this morning, I planted them in the front yard. Now they have as much room to flourish as they need. The trees are beautiful and we’re a little nervous about their ability to adapt and grow in their new location but we realize they can’t stay in the safety of their decorative pots any longer.
As I dug the holes for each tree I thought about the wisdom teaching that there are seasons in our lives when our present location is perfect for growth and maturity. However, there will also come a time when we’ll need to make the choice to risk the comfort and safety of what we know, move into the unknown and hope for the chance to flourish and grow as never before.