The Mind Mumbles – an occasional meander of scattered thoughts
What Most People Really Need is a Good Listening to…
Recently, from several different sources, I have been told by people who have very ‘goal directed’ personality types – I rcognise them because they are mirrors of myself – that they ‘know what my intentions are.’ This comes with the added sense of threat of ‘whatever they think I want isn’t going to happen come hell or high water!’
I have been amazed by their intimate knowledge of the innner workings of my mind. I envy their psychic skills and wich i posessed them as I find it extemely difficult to sort out the garbage inside my head that passes for thought processes.
There are two things that concern me when people tell me what my plans are.
The First is the presumption that every part of life is plotted, schemed and pre-planned. Its almost as if it is not just mini-MBA’s (now causing a flutter amongst the hierarchy of the Church of England) that clergy sould be expert in but also we must pass ‘Machiavellian Studies 101’ before being admitted to Holy Orders. Perhaps I should plan more but I find myself, along with most of my colleagues, simply ‘winging it’ and muttering a silent curse each time Easter – and so Lent, Mothering Sunday, Palm Sunday, Holy Week – appears early in the calendar year!
Some people – Machiavelli being their patron saint – are plotters and schemers but most are not.
Perhaps we should have better plans and ‘intentions’ – evil or otherwise – for the work of God (something which Renewal and Reform in the Church of England has ‘flagged up’) but for the most part people are trying to simply ‘Love one another’ and ‘lay down our lives for one another’. No plots, no plans, just love.
The Second concern I have is that we forget that conversation begins with silence, and silence is best ended by a voice other than out own. How can I begin to ‘know what someone’s intentions are’ if I have not first heard their voice? When I do this it is not the other person’s intentions that are revealed but my own prejudices and presumptions that are being laid bare.
When left unchecked this leads to the arrogance of the ‘know-it-all’ that destroys any possibility of community and, as St Paul rightly says ’empties the cross of its power’.
Surely the best way of discovering any ‘intentions’ a person may or may nor have is to ask them?
In the late Summer of 2000 I paid my first visit to St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. For me, with my strong South African connections, it was a sacred moment, especially being able to touch the Hector Petersen memorial inside the church. In the shop in the crypt I bought a present of a mug to take back to my wife in Johannesburg, little knowing that four months later we would be returning home to work in the Church of England. In the 17 years since Mary Lou Casey’s words on that mug have seen us as a couple, and many of our visitors, through some difficult conversations:
‘What Most People Really Need is a Good Listening to’
I have found that remembering to give people a good listening to’ allows others the chance to speak first, stops me from presuming I know what the problem is, (if there is indeed a ‘problem’) and reminds me of my obligation to not give an answer to something about which I know nothing.
We only know people’s ‘intentions’ when they tell us, and, if we are ever to become their friend or servant, we must learn to have only godly intentions about other peoples ‘intentions’ and make love, not control, our aim (1 Corinthains 14v1)
‘The Mind Mumbles – an occasional meander of scattered thoughts’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017