To my friend who might not even read this whole article,
A couple years ago my mom and dad came home from a wedding and told me and my siblings all about the cousins and relatives on my mom’s side of the family. They were the people you sometimes never encounter in life; your mom’s cousins daughters best friend who they call their “aunt.” (You know those relatives). My dad told us that he asked one of these random relatives, “so what are you currently doing for work?” and she replied;
“Do you really care or are you just making small talk?”
I never forgot this story.
I never forgot it because how often is this true for our conversations throughout the day. Maybe just me, but I really struggle to find genuine connections with others. People are either on their phones while you speak, multitasking, “making small talk” (work or the weather), or interrupting the conversation by something else. Sometimes you catch people “at the worst time” and they’re angry and unapproachable (this is without control sometimes). Even worse, the person who gets to share ALL of their heart and then the moment you get to speak time has suddenly “run out.” Not to mention when you DO get to speak their reply isn’t of any benefit to you, it is simply their turn to change the subject and speak while inside you’re screaming.
When I engage with others throughout my day, I feel robbed of time and authentic connection. It’s no lie that real, true, and loving connections thrive on undivided attention and listening. It seems like most people will say this, confirm this, but don’t actively do this. Even as I write this I am reminded of all the times today, and throughout my life, that I have been a part of this inactive listening and ingenuine communication (sorry if it was at your expense.)
Here’s the thing, and comment below if I am wrong, but can we agree that most of the time other people won’t have the solution to the problem you are lamenting to (your smart, you got this). They won’t have the empathy to engage with you, and, as the speaker, you don’t want them to go on their own tangent, you just want them to listen. The other person likely has their own crap to deal with — and quite frankly cares about it more than yours — and you settle for these half-hearted connections and man, they really hurt. Your opinion is irrelevant, to a point, and the lowest form of human knowledge. Your empathy, though, is everything my heart wants and requires a really heroic, larger than self, kinda understanding on your end. (Bill Bullard quote)
When you have people in your life who you can “vibe” with, connect with, and in all sincerity know they actually want any kind of good for your life you tend to start to judge all other conversations and encounters off that. Maybe it is God’s little way of helping you know who your kindred spirits are, and praise Him for that, but overall it seems like the most inauthentic conversations happen at the times we are in most need to real ones.
I’ve even fallen so insecure about what I say from all the times no one has cared to listen, or the times people have negatively reacted to my words so I shut down and refuse to speak and open myself up to others. (Not good)..
It’s no shock that adults, and people far into an “experienced” life (whatever that means), laugh and belittle the thought of “young love.” When young people fall in love it is “inevitable” that they tell each other everything and with all their emotions fall hard for another person. The over-kill of emotions definitely needs to be catered with a balancing act of self-control (read Emotional Virtue for more on that) but when young people fall in love they are still witnessing to us a favor; reminding us how thrilling, how loving, how virtuous and alive we become at the work of giving our new significant other our undivided attention. As couples grow deeper into their relationship and commit to each other, they schedule undivided time for their dates. To the extent that this love is strong and desirable, they keep this schedule up regularly without getting too busy for each other.
You want someone to know you in an undivided way with no distractions and no ulterior motives (like trying to get the dirt or gossip on you), right? I do. Another story I’ll never forget is one from my old friend who said, “isn’t it crazy how people get divorced considering at one point in their life those people were so in love…”
Before I get off track here, let’s get right to the depth.
The moments we feel deprived of real community and connection are invitations to lean into God. To lean into that deep, personal, undivided attention and love Jesus never tires of giving us. Jesus was the kind of guy who had hundreds of people looking for Him, but never really shared His own heart with others. If it happened to Him, it’ll happen with us.
I remember the years I really started praying… you know the years you stop falling asleep during the Our Father at 11 p.m. and really ask God to get in this one area of your life.
I was shocked, beyond shocked, at how often I got the desire to pray and keep talking about my many issues.
“Jesus wants to hear about my petty issues? … Doesn’t he have better things to take care of?”
He wants your heart.
Until you really take the ache in your heart, that longing desire for intimacy and authentic communion with others, and present it to Jesus in a prayer, you will not be able to experience this thirst He has for you. In Mother Theresa’s words;
“I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus — one to one — you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in Chapel, but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how he looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus, not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words he speaks to you? Ask for the grace: He is longing to give it to you.”
This still blows my mind. I have never regretted a prayer. I have never not been more relieved after a prayer. I have never been interrupted by God — usually I am the one interrupting Him.
In a world where we wonder, everyday (even from our own families), “do you actually care or are you just making small talk?” this invitation to deep conversation (which is really what prayer is) is such a rarity.
Too good to be true, I thought. (Still think..)
I plead with you for two really important reasons.
- I know you probably want to change the world, and make it a little bit more decent, right? Then do me a small favor and practice active listening with at least one person a day.
The second challenge I have for you is those moments in your life when you feel like you haven’t had adequate conversation with others, OR the conversations that you have had were EXHAUSTING (toxic, overbearing, inappropriate) take the moment to rest with Jesus in prayer, simply calling on Him and sharing what you need to get off your chest.
People are quick to grab a drink, snack, their phone, or watch TV to isolate their mind.. Even meditation alone is really only thinking and focused breathing. Praying, though, praying is a deep and enriching encounter with Jesus that leaves a peace the world can never fully satisfy. And obviously there is more things in this world to block that encounter than anything else — sometimes your own mistakes or shame — making it impossible to really experience that heart-to-heart with Jesus. But if only you knew how He longs for you. He waits for you to tell Him about your day. He misses you most when you don’t come close, even when you don’t feel worthy.
“In order for your prayer life to deepen, you must go beyond the written words of others to the unspoken words of your heart.” -Mother Theresa
“Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him whom we know loves us.” -St. Teresa of Avila
I will leaving you with the remedy to both of those challenges, something we never use; silence.
We need silence to refresh and solitude to rest. We don’t usually need another drink, another drug, another hook-up or sexual encounter, hit from the blunt to relax, escape, or mellow us. We need silence to soak us up for a little while. We are so suffocated by the world and the inauthentic conversations with others. Our minds are this continuously stimulated whirlpool that can’t catch a break. Prayer and good, solid, healthy, and caring conversations are battles with distractions that are inevitable but our attitudes, active listening, attuning, virtue, and example can change us and the experience of deep conversations and love we long for.
With a listening ear if you need it,