Sometimes we just need to shut the hell up and listen!
I know some will wince a little at the title I've chosen, and perhaps some may not even read it. But I feel like it encapsulates some of what I have been feeling lately.
Full disclosure; this article is more opinion than it is research based, but I hope that others will relate and find what I have to say helpful.
I had a great conversation with my brother a while ago. I cried. I swore. I vented. He listened. He empathized. He didn't offer me any advice or solutions to my problems.
I know many of you can relate when I say that life can seem overwhelming sometimes. Like the weight of just living almost seems to suffocate you. What I find so terribly hard is that sometimes I cannot explain why I feel the way I do. Perhaps there isn't an explanation and that's okay.
We all have advice and ideas to help people. And many of them are good and useful. But timing is everything.
This is what I reflected on after that conversation with my brother, TIMING MATTERS.
When I am, or anyone else is, at the peak of the emotion or moment, keep your freaking ideas to your damn self! seriously! In what universe do you think, when tears are pouring down my face do you think I need or want to hear "Have you tried... or if you did... or what about..."
Even if what you have to say is reasonable and good, in that moment of high emotion it is unhelpful and unwelcome. What a person needs in those moments are a mouth that is shut, and ears and arms that are open.
Did you know that the shortest verse in the bible is "Jesus Wept". Do you know why He was weeping?
He was weeping with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus. I find it interesting that Christ didn't show up and tell them to hush up because he knew things were shortly to become better. No! He paused, and allowed them to experience the emotion; emotion that for them was very real and very painful. Not only did he allow them to express their raw emotion, he joined them, and I imagine in my mind him holding them as He did so.
There is a time for advice and solutions. I need them, you need, we all need them. But it is better and more effective to give them when emotions aren't running high. Do it after the storm has cleared, or at least let up a little.
Offering advice at the height of emotion, is like walking up to someone who just lost their family in a house fire and saying something like "did you install smoke alarms?"
This is no doubt sound guidance, but offering such advice at that moment renders you a literal idiot! There is a time to speak, and a time to shut our mouths and just listen.
We don't have to understand what or why someone is feeling the way they are to listen, love, and support them. Often when I am at a peak, I am simply needing to express and vent raw emotion and let the hurt and frustration pour out of my soul so that I can get it out and make some sort of sense of it.
I don't live my entire life at an emotional peak! There are many moments outside of those emotional peaks to talk about ideas, experiences and solutions.
But there is something even worse than offering untimely and unwelcome advice. That is condemning, judging or correcting in the moment of raw emotion. During that conversation with my brother, I dropped a couple of F-bombs... now I try not to swear, and so does he. But he said nothing. He just listened and empathized.
When we try to correct someone in the moment, we stifle the necessary need for expression. Sometimes, we just need to let it out, shout it out, scream it out or even swear it out. Life is hard!
I want to be better. I want to be like Jesus, and I am trying. But I don't have the added blessing of being a literal God in the flesh, and life sometimes gets the better of me and I crack and crumble a little.
But in those moments when the ground is shaking, I don't need someone to point out the cracks in my walls and foundation, or tell me how to build a better house. I just need someone who is willing to help me find shelter while the debris is falling and someone who is willing to help me repair and rebuild after the shaking stops.
Isn't this how we get better, stronger and become more like Jesus?
Too many of us are proficient in talking and deficient in listening. We all could do better in this regard. I am not suggesting I am perfect at what I share here, but if perfection were the requirement to speak then everyone would say nothing. Maybe you will relate to this, perhaps you won't.
P.S. Perhaps we could all be to someone today, what my brother was to me. Thanks Bro.