I’m currently reading John Francis’s inspiring book Planetwalker. It recounts the story of his 17 year vow of silence and his 22 year commitment to not riding in motorized vehicles. During this time he manages to walk across America, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, hike across Cuba and Brazil, and visit both Alaska and Antarctica. Oh, and he also earned college and graduate degrees as well as a Ph.D.
Here I thought running a half-marathon was an accomplishment!
One particular part of the book really stood out to me. After the first few months of silence, Francis makes this observation:
“From this new place lessons come, or perhaps realizations. The first is that most of my adult life I have not been listening fully. I only listened long enough to determine whether the speaker’s ideas matched my own. If they did not, I would stop listening and my mind would race ahead to compose an argument against what I believed the speaker’s idea or position to be, which I would interject at the first opportunity. Giving myself permission not to speak, not to attack some idea or position, also gives me permission to listen fully. Giving myself this permission gives the speaker permission to speak fully their idea or position without fear of rebuttal in a way that I could not have imagined.”
I realize that I am totally guilty of this. With my wife, with friends, even on social media. As someone who is not afraid of conflict and has no problems speaking his mind, this tendency of formulating an argument in my head before the other person is done speaking is all to common. Even on social media and emails, I tend to only skim over a persons response to get the gist of what they’re saying and then immediately start writing a rebuttal.
I’m going to start paying more attention to this. In the last several months as I’ve started “coming out” to people about my faith (or lack there of), there have been many times when I’ve been put on the defense and felt I had to explain myself. There have been other times when I’ve seen a comment or article someone has posted and feel compelled to say something about it. More often then not this cycle of speaking more then listening comes into play and little is accomplished in way of seeing the other’s point of view.
While we are in the mindset of making resolutions, I’ll be doing more writing this year. When I started this blog I had the goal of doing one article a week. That slipped to about one a month. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s just that writing is a lot of work and I’m lazy. In Planetwalker, Francis received an art kit and decided to paint one picture each day. He notes that, “Some are unsatisfying except for the fact that at least I did a painting. But each page represents a day, and I believe in the promise that the next day will be better.” So, I resolve to write one post a week, even if it’s unsatisfying.
I also resolve to be even more honest with my writing. One of the goals of this blog was to be open about my faith, the changes I’ve made in my thinking, and who I am because of it. I’ve done that to an extent, but not fully. I’ve held back, knowing that some of my ideas, while solely my own, will be challenging to some and they may even feel threatened. It’s sometimes a little scary putting yourself out there when you know how others will react. It’s not that I care what others think, it just gets old having people tell you how wrong/crazy/mislead/apostate you are. 2015 is the year of coming clean, of leaving behind the old and venturing towards the new. Here’s to a new year.