An example: Your sibling asks, “When is the last time you talked to mom?”
1. You may start getting defensive: Why is my sister checking up on me? Doesn’t my brother know how busy I am with the kids and work? Is she/he implying I do not call enough?
2. You may begin to imagine worst case scenarios: What is wrong with mom? Why doesn’t she tell me anything? Did she fall? Should I drop everything and call right now?
I have read Rising Strong twice. Once on my own and once in discussion with my colleagues. After reading it, I realized I do this a lot. I also heard from my colleagues that they do this as well. It is universal.
This phrase has come back to me as we are in a transition at church because our senior pastor took another call. I am aware that transition and change can be unsettling for people. I am trying to be more observant of our folks and reach out if needed. But…in being more watchful, I also catch myself making up stories in my head.
· That person has looked mad the past two Sundays. Is worship not meaningful as it once was?
· That family has not been in Sunday School since Easter. Are they looking for a new church?
· Those three people are huddled in a corner talking quietly. What are they frustrated about and who will they bring in with them to side on their issue?
I know it sounds paranoid. Again, it is our brain trying to make sense of something in which we do not have all the information.
Where has this happened for you? With your spouse? With your boss? At church? With your teenager?
What do we do to stop the story-making in our head?
First, we take a breath and as Brené Brown says, “Get curious.” Notice what you are feeling. Recognize that those feelings are coming from you in that moment and not from facts you do not even know yet. For me this slows down the story-making and helps me be less reactive. When I am less reactive, I am a better listener.
Second, we listen: to ourselves and to others. That is what I am beginning to do at church. I have started meeting with folks one-on-one to listen. I ask, “How are you feeling in this time of transition at Faith and what are your hopes for the future?” These meetings require both people to be vulnerable as one shares and one listens. They are holy conversations. What I have discovered is that it is not important if I am right or wrong in my own story-making about that person. The beauty of these conversations is the mutual give and take of care that happens when we share and listen to each other.
In my church examples above, maybe that mad person is overwhelmed at work and can’t let go of the stress even on Sunday morning; or that family just began soccer season and it conflicts with Sunday School; or those people in the corner are sharing stories and antics about their grandchildren.
We do not know until we ask and listen. It is sometimes scary to do that, whether it is work or personal, because it requires us to be vulnerable. But that mutual care for each other that we all need, only happens in the midst of vulnerability.
I am going to continue to quiet the story-making in my own head. Story-making is draining.
I would much rather be a part of the life-giving, honest, mutual caring that that happens when we sit face-to-face and be together.