Cattle Crossing –
Today, traveling the back roads of South Central Tennessee, I saw a “Cattle Crossing” sign. It was funny at first, the thought of having a cow in the middle of the road or a group of them causing a traffic jam. The more I thought about a cow jumping, waddling, out of nowhere on the road or stepping out from a hidden place the more I slowed down. A cow would cause tremendous truck and bodily damage. I’ve seen the toll a deer can put on a vehicle. I can’t imagine what a cow would do!
Wisdom tells us that we are given insight and warning signs for a reason. It also reminds us that it is our choice whether or not to take the warning seriously. We proceed at our own risk. Too often we ignore them and suffer the consequences of wrecked lives for ourselves and those we hold dear.
Our lives are not to be lived waiting for the next disaster, challenge or difficulty to come our way. However, if we learn to look for the warning signs and trust the wisdom we have gained through experience and knowledge we can avoid a lot of pain and heartache.
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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
I was talking with someone the other day and we were trying to come to grips with a few issues which needed to be addressed so this person could move forward in life. We wanted to learn from his past but not be chained to it. One of the questions I asked was; “Who, if anyone, can criticize you?” The question hung in the air. I continued; “If we aren’t capable of receiving information about areas of our lives in which we need to improve we will never grow beyond our perception of ourselves.”
Being critical of ourselves, allowing others to shed light on dark, perhaps unexplored places, of who we are isn’t easy. I’m not sure anyone enjoys receiving an insight from someone else that isn’t flattering or realizing for ourselves we have a long way to go and grow, in multiple areas of life.
Wisdom teaches us that perfection isn’t ours for the taking but progression is a possibility. To progress, however, we must be vulnerable to the perception of weakness, habit, hurt or hang-up in ourselves and possess the willingness to accept it and begin to change.