The only meaningful thing we can offer one another is love.
Not questions about our choices
Not suggestions for the future...
-Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior
If I had a t-shirt, and the saying on the front depicted one of my greatest growing edges, the phrase greeting all on-lookers would read...
The sub-script would read...
"she optimistically thinks her well-meaning
suggestions and advice are what is needed."
For as long as I can remember, when someone shared a problem or concern with me, my first instinct was to try to fix it and solve it for them. Oh my intentions were honorable, and in some way I imagined I was helping, but truthfully giving advice
can sometimes be a very selfish way to communicate.
"Why is it selfish?", I hear you asking.
Thanks for asking that question.
Here's my answer, short and sweet.
Sometimes when I give advice, the focus of the communication shifts from you, who has a problem, to me... who mistakenly thinks she has the perfect answer.
Okay, not so short and sweet.
Often when I give advice to you it sounds like I don't think you are smart enough to solve your own problem. I am almost instantly disempowering you by subtly letting you know that I have all the answers.
Which I don't.
Truth be told, I hardly even know what the problem is or why you have it when I rush in with a solution.
This has never been more obvious than in my parenting of my daughters, Jessi and Amy.
Our family used to have "family meetings" where we discussed issues, shared appreciations and tried to solve problems. There was a "Family Meeting Agenda" on the refrigerator and any family member could pencil in a topic to be discussed at the next meeting. One week, when the girls were about 8 and 10, I glanced at the agenda only to find that Bert, Jessi and Amy had all written in my name as the topic for that week's meeting.
I was shocked. I tried to pry out of each one of them what the agenda item was about, and I'm a good pryer.
No dice. I had to wait, painfully I might add, until Sunday's meeting.
All three of them were there and Bert turned the floor over to Jessi and Amy. They eloquently expressed how much they loved me and how much they knew that I loved them.
Good and tactful start, I thought...knowing full well that there would be a "but," followed by a comma.
Jessi, being oldest, went first. She lovingly detailed situations where she had wanted me to listen and instead I gave advice, almost before she was done talking.
Then Amy, the truth teller in the family, took the floor. She quietly walked over by me and as she did a giant tear fell slowly down her gorgeous alabaster cheek. I will never forget what she said.
"Mommy, could you please just listen to me. Just listen. That's how I feel loved. Just listen to me, Mommy. Please."
Now for you doubting souls who may want to interject..."Aren't there situations where advice is a necessity, especially with a child?" Yes, of course there are.
There are times when we have to make suggestions or put down a firm objection. There are times to question choices or look at alternatives. However, there are times when, if you are a really good listener, you can help someone discover those suggestions and advice on their own.
When they discover that answer, and feel empowered to initiate it in their own life, then they will follow through and make it happen on their own. Or at least that has been my experience.
My girls taught me such an important lesson that listening, before giving advice, can make someone feel loved and cared about.
I wish with all my heart that Amy had never had to remind me again about listening, about not automatically asking questions about her choices or making suggestions for the future. But just as she did as a small girl, with that tear cascading down her sweet face, she again at age 35 reminds me with care and affection that the only meaningful thing we can offer each other is love. Not advice, not suggestions for the future, just love.
So today I make a new resolution. I resolve to honor others by just loving them and listening to them. Perhaps I should save all of that very valuable advice, and focus on improving myself! :)
"If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old." ...