Listen up!!

Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger… James 1:19

Our sermon at church this morning was about this verse in the Book of James. I have to be honest; to some degree I feel like I have this down pat. In a lot of ways, I would much rather listen to YOU all day. I ask questions and I try to understand what someone is really saying. I don’t interrupt and I feel like my goal is always to empathize and only when asked of me, do I offer assistance or advise. And often it comes in the form of more questions so that YOU come up with your own advice.

I guess I learned it through years of reading books and therapy sessions and trying to wrestle with my own demons, not to mention a thorough reading of How to Win Friends and Influence People by good ole Mr. Carnegie. Not that I believe in the ole checklist or step-by-step mentality that is so rampant in the self-help industry, but I find a lot of his principles are sound and have never failed me.

I also have always kept the adage in mind: you have two ears and one mouth, so always listen twice as long as you talk. I really do try to live by that principle and I hope that my family and friends would attest to that more or less. Or maybe I’m just that delusional. I just find it interesting that there are so many people who turn every conversation into something about them. They’ll ask you a question to which you start to reply and something you say triggers a good 10 minute story about them. It’s all about ME!

But while I know I constantly work on being a good listener and slow to talk or prattle on or dominate a conversation (hey I have a blog for all that), I do know that I have… (drumroll please) ANGER ISSUES!

Slow to anger. Pastor Barrett talked about anger issues and how we feel we have only righteous anger, like there are all these perfectly acceptable reasons for our anger. I could list lots of things that I am angry about and I would bet that 9 out of 10 would be “legit” – but what is not legit is my carrying it around with me like dead weight, strangling against my neck and creating this knee-jerk response to everything and anything else that goes wrong.

Ive said before and will admit readily that I have a violent streak. I was saying just this evening to friends who were talking about owning a gun and the 2nd amendment that I should never really own or possess a gun because that just probably is like one of the worst ideas ever. I would really be afraid of myself and what I could do if I ever did unleash the beast within.

Haha that sounds like a really god-awful made for TV lifetime for women movie. I’m sure it’s been done already. And maybe the point is that there are so many people out there just carrying around this submerged rage, but it’s a lot like trying to hold a filled balloon under water. Or a dead body in the Hudson River, without chains on the ankles… see what I’m sayin?

I’ve been wronged. I hope no one would ever try to convince me otherwise. But what strikes at my heart and soul is the need to let it go. Some of these things are so far removed, carrying them around still seems as futile as sticking your finger in a hole in the Hoover Dam. Eventually, I would pop. And for the most part, a lot of people walk around having completely legitimate reasons to be angry and it comes out when the pressure is on or when things don’t go their way or when they feel they aren’t being really heard and understood.

So while I aim in life to listen to others and learn from them, it is in some ways a defense mechanism. And I realized something as i thought about it more, maybe this here blog is a defense mechanism. I tried to think about the last conversation I had with someone that was really brutally honest and self-revealing, telling someone what I’m feeling and struggling with and disclosing my true soul. It’s been awhile. I have so few friends I really let in to that depth, and I think in some ways, even the way I write things here is less than open, though it may seem that way at first. And I can’t help but wonder why I hold people “in real life” (IRL as the kids say) at a distance. Pride? Fear of rejection? Delusional schizophrenia? I don’t know. But I’m going to work harder at finding out and letting some things go. And just as a precaution, I am not applying for a gun permit, 2nd amendment or not.


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