“You Will Speak When Spoken To…”
Anyone remember words like that?
Can we imagine making them into a spiritual practice?
I’d not thought of those words in many years. I remember how I felt punished and voiceless – in childhood and teen years especially. Perhaps a few of you have experienced similar words and worse.
Old memories like that tend to go underground. Skillful therapy, spiritual practices and prayer, relationships and work can all help those parts of our story be more at rest. Something happens to awaken those old words and humiliations. Then we have a choice to make.
Here’s one example.
This last week there was an important start-up and discernment meeting of people in the social justice ministry at Westside. A special thanks to Tracy Burrows for initiating and facilitating the meeting; also to Regina Brennan for her leadership of this ministry at Westside for many years (Regina will be speaking this coming Sunday so I hope you’ll be at church to hear her). Others who have contributed their time and dedication to social action were there as well.
I fell into an old pattern at that meeting. I found myself interrupting and stating opinions, suggestions and brainstorming ideas. This is a very old problem for me. At one level, it is an example of male supremacy along with white-identity supremacy. That’s part of me. Another part of me is impatient with the pace of discernment. My enthusiasm runneth over. I begin to talk over people. It was rude and I apologize to everyone who was at that meeting.
I could stop with an apology. That’s not enough. Later, I found a way to learn how to break unskillful habits. I was driving home and wrestling with how I’d been at the meeting. I reflected on this life-long habit and how it could be very harmful in all aspects of my life. How could I change?
Then those forgotten words popped into my mind.
This is where the possibilities of a spiritual practice come into play. I reflected on the feelings of those ancient words “you will speak when spoken to”. How had I felt? Why have I carried those 6 words so deeply? Where does forgiveness arise? How could that energy of an old anger be transformed into something more skillful? How do I become more self-aware?
Those are core questions of a spiritual/relational practice. That’s a start.
This, then, will be my new practice: I will listen more deeply and say less. I will try to take in the conversation and explore what feelings are in the room. Then when asked or perhaps at an appropriate time I will share any ideas I have.
I won’t probably be very good at that practice at first but that’s why this is called “practice.” It’s a process rather than perfection.
Westside is known as a teaching church. We are all here teaching one another. Here’s my request: If you experience me interrupting and/or starting to say too much…just say or text me ‘practice.’ I have another solution, too. Someone gave me a small package of cards that are the size and shape of business cards. Each one says, ‘stop talking.’ I don’t recall who gave them to me but I’m going to use those cards as my own reminder to relax and be quiet.
This is a new life practice for me. Perhaps such practices can be good methods in whatever life-discernment stage any of us might be in. Thank you for your support.
Blessings to us all as this summer moves on to Ingathering Weekend September 16th and 17th. See you on August 20 and thereafter.