I’m thinking about two different interactions I had with friends recently. Both took place as we met at different times over coffee. The first conversation was with a friend about the same age that I am. It began with talk about politics, local news and sports. As we talked, I began to sense that there was something going on in the background. After a few minutes, I asked a simple question. “What do you really want to talk about today?” Immediately I watched his head drop. His shoulders sagged and I heard a sigh. Slowly he began to tell me about some things taking place with one of his sons. This son struggles with addiction. He shared about a recent relapse. His son is back in a treatment facility. He’s lost his job and will probably lose his apartment. I could feel the pain as he talked to me about this son that he loves so much. I watched tears form and fall onto the table. As he spoke, I reached across the table and placed my hand on his arm. I’m not sure how long we sat together. My friend shared his pain and I listened. When he was finished, we sat in silence for a couple minutes. My friend looked at me and said, “Thanks Ron. I just needed to get that out.” I felt honored that he allowed me to listen.
What took place there? We didn’t “fix” things. We didn’t map out a three-point plan with a timeline. My friend had a chance to speak his pain and I provided an ear to hear. If I had attempted to offer advice or answers, we might have both left frustrated. Sometimes we just need to talk while someone listens.
The second interaction took place in the same coffee shop at the same table. Another friend stopped by. I could tell as he walked in that there was some anger present. The conversation started out about the same, politics and sports but with a slightly sharper edge. He told me he had just met with his father for a few minutes. He wanted to let his father know about a promotion he had just received at work but as he talked, he realized his father wasn’t hearing anything he was saying. He quickly stated that this has always been the pattern and that he shouldn’t expect anyone to listen or care. I asked about the promotion, but he shut me down and said he needed to go.
A therapist and host of the podcast, The Place We find Ourselves, Adam Young, talks about three questions of atunement, does anyone see me, does anyone hear me, and can anyone help me? We are asking these questions with the first cry we utter at birth, and we are asking these questions as life comes to an end. Some of us have been taught that it’s wrong for us to ask these things but these questions are valid. Ultimately these questions are answered by God, but it’s been my experience that He most often uses other people to see me, hear me and help me.
If you find yourself asking these questions, keep asking. Your questions are valid. All of us need to be listening for these questions. If you hear them, please ask yourself, how can I respond?
If you’d like to talk, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Id like to listen.