Although I rarely got in trouble in school as a kid, the few detentions I did get in high school were for talking too much in study hall. After that, my mother always made me take an extra book to read during those times when I was done with my homework and had spare time on my hands. The book trick kept me out of detention, but my love of trolling hallways for people willing to talk never waned. Staffing a vendor booth at a large convention is my idea of heaven. (People come to YOU to talk!) I’ve been known to use a 2-3 hour dinner break at big events to stand in the main corridor, allowing conversation to wash over me as people ebb and flow through my personal shore of chatter. I’ve even made a career of this personality trait. (In what other line of work, besides a pastor, do you get to preach at a practically captive audience for a 15-20 minute stretch at least once a week?)
Talking comes very naturally to me. Listening does not. That is why “listening” is going to be my personal spiritual practice this Lent.
It’s going to be a long Lent.
Actually, I already started this practice before Ash Wednesday, figuring I’d need more than 40 days to reverse my life-long verbal habit. Here are some of the things I’m going to try:
- Ask people more questions instead of immediately interjecting my own thoughts;
- Stop interrupting people (see above);
- When I start to judge someone or a situation, ask a question rather than making a statement;
- Be conscious of how much time I spend talking in any group situation;
- Intentionally make more quiet time for myself, so that I can tune into to my own internal rhythms;
- Respond to what I or other people genuinely need, rather than assuming I already know what I/they need.
I’m not sure where all this is going to lead, but I’m sure the practice will transform me in ways I cannot predict nor control. What I hope, though, is to come out more genuinely attuned to the people around me and even to myself. I hope I become more comfortable with silence and stillness. I hope that God gets more chances to creep into the conversation if I just sit down and keep quiet for a while.
The best part is that y’all get to join me for the Lenten ride. Aren’t you excited?