“Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” Is 5:21
One of the signs of moral maturity is self-distrust. We have learned we can be wrong, especially when we thing we are right.
But this is where the tension is: Too much distrust will make you fearful of saying anything to anyone, even giving simple directions to someone lost on the road for fear they may make a misguided left turn. We can’t let self-distrust silence us.
But to0 little distrust and you will never stop talking long enough or thinking only your thoughts to let others break into your rumination. We need to be shocked out of our own thinking and the voices of others can help. If you let it be true, your great ideas may not be as good as those of another around you.
Maturity, especially social and emotional maturity, operates in this tension of finding one’s voice and helping others express theirs. Maturity looks for systems that feed voices into a shared perspective, building a choir of expressions into a a vision or mission and direction.
Working at this tension is a work of a lifetime. We have to cultivate and express our voice and hear others at the same time. Steven Covey’s book the 8th Habit (see wiki’s excellent review) takes it even further. It is about finding voice and purpose and helping others also find theirs and in the process the shared voices lift the human condition. It also has been my central observation over the years I lived, worked, and congregated with Adventists in California, Ohio and Michigan. When it is done well, groups prosper. When it isn’t done well, voices and whole groups go missing and the entire community suffers.
I believe that much of the pain and lack of traction in some Adventist schools, churches and communities is a deep distortion in the process of finding voice and giving ear.
How much more would we listen and learn if we deeply believed the “other” had truth we desperately needed. Their minds could rescue us from our own thinking. Each of us bring uniqueness to the social circle. The places we have lived and the experiences combined with our unique personalities will help us see aspects of God, truth, morality and love that others have already seen. We need to share our insights as gifts to each other. We need to be looking for those gifts.
I believe even the young can have a voice. That is probably why, after writing the 8th Habit, Covey spent the remaining years of his life working with children to develop their voices and ability. The Leader in Me is a book and movement based on that belief.
Part of maturity is knowing when to shut up and when not to. It is to know when your bones are burning with in you and you need to speak… Jeremiah 20:9 “But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.“
But maturity has taught us that this burning can sometimes be only our own nasty lack of humility and a desire to push our thinking on others. We have to be careful not to let our distortions splatter over others. That too takes maturity.
Such is the tension of a true disciple of God…a concern about listening and speaking in due season.
A daily walk with God is one way to find that pace. If the first thing in a day is your talking and listening to God inprayer and reading, it is likely to set our conversational pace for other parts of our day.
This is why a third of the moral secrets God wants to share with us, for us to deeply experience is stated in Micah 6:8 “walk humbly with they God.”
“Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life” (Prov 22:4). Walking is not running or sitting. It is moving at a pace between those two no throttle or full throttle experiences. I
My mouth and ears have to learn a pace in conversation with others. When do I speak. When do I shut up. When do I need to really cool down my hot thinking and enjoy the deep learning that comes from a dialogue instead of a one way speaking tour.
There is nothing like humiliation to help us come closer to the truth about the importance of listening to others. Allender in his book, Leading with a Limp, reminds us that cultivating daily humility may be ideal, but for some of us, especially strong-willed leaders, humiliation will be the main route to humilty. (See Daniel 4 to see how well that worked for King Nebuchadnezzar). Humiliation also can get us to the coveted circle of “walking humbly” with God and others. Humiliation too should be seen as a great gift….although an expensive one!!!!
I know relatives and friends who went bankrupt morally, spiritually, socially or spiritually, not mainly because they made a few mistakes or the economy and context went bad on them (although that can be a reason) but because they never learned to listen outside their own head.
I also know individuals in the opposite dungeon. They have never ventured out to resist the traffic of words and conversations to voice their own views for fear they were wrong.
So find your pace with God and then bring that pace into your conversations today. You will have to say something today. And you will have to do twice as much listening.
Deep listening is a stance of… “I am missing something. I know I am. I wonder if you are giving me a piece of the puzzle I most need to see more clearly. I need to really listen. My life depends on this.”
Deep voice is a belief God is working also in my heart and I can bless the group by saying something.
Prayer: God help me to share my experience of you with others to day but even more to be eager to listen and receive the experiences of others.