“What happens when people open their hearts?”…
“They get better.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Woo
We are always being told the importance of becoming better listeners. Listening is of course a valuable skill that should be promoted, especially when sometimes it appears that members of our society increasingly focus on talking about themselves.
However, I recently wondered if the opposite is an issue. Is learning how to speak openly (with one specific person or several) more of a battle for some then we assume? And quite frankly, is it possible to listen TOO much?
I often have this problem. It doesn’t matter what the subject is or whom I’m talking to. Something holds me back. After some research I realized that evidently, I’m not the only one. Like me, there are many others out there searching for assistance on how to talk more freely about themselves. This not only includes sharing our innermost secrets, but even just sharing our every day happenings.
Why do we do this?
- Fearing vulnerability?
- Lacking trust?
- Falling into the role of a therapist?
- Being “too busy?”
- Fearing no one is truly interested?
- Fearing judgment?
- Preferring to not be the center of attention?
- Perhaps admitting our thoughts out loud will force a mirror in our direction?
It is true that wisdom can spring from listening. However, is it possible that being the avid “listener” can also be a crutch? I know it is for me. Don’t get me wrong, listening to others’ stories and struggles can provide perspective and distraction from our own troubles, in addition to providing the opportunity to help the ones we love. But at some point, sharing our own lives becomes just as important. It’s not selfish (I struggle with this one often). It’s not attention-seeking. It’s loving another enough to let them in.
Look at it from the other person’s perspective:
- Who wants a one-sided conversation?
- Who wants to feel like they are the only one being vulnerable?
- Who wants to feel like they don’t “know” their own friend or family member, simply because we continually hold back?
People want to know you.
Moreover, we aren’t being fair to ourselves. There is a plethora of knowledge, experience, and wisdom waiting to be shared by those who care about us. By those who want to help us. By those that know the way.
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)
Let God in.
If you fall into the habit of holding back from your friends and/or loved ones, there is a good chance you may fall into this habit with God as well. However, with Him it’s different. He truly sees us, no matter how high we’ve built our walls. He knows what we’re feeling but not saying. He knows our secrets, even if we tossed the key to our lock box. The amazing thing is, even though he already knows everything, he still wants us to talk to Him. This is because once again, that’s where the intimacy lies–in sharing.
For example, I needed to know what was in my big sister’s diary when I was little. That book was so intriguing; I swear it called my name in the middle of the night. After all, she was so cool; her stories had to be fascinating! If I would have read that diary, I just know I would have been enthralled with her daily adventures. However, this information wouldn’t have created a bond between us (just the opposite, actually). Instead, having a conversation with my sister about anything–that’s when a bond would potentially develop.
God may know the facts of our stories, but he wants the bond. And whether we realize it or not, that bond is indispensable and irreplaceable. All it takes is a balance of speaking and listening, giving and accepting.
Suggestion: Take a step in the “sharing” direction. Then take another. It will get easier and easier, and in turn, more and more fulfilling. And when it comes down to it, doesn’t it feel great to know that others want to know you more? Give the people what they want.