When listening hurts

Think of the hardest, most difficult, worst time in your life.  Then think of the one thing that someone could have said or done to have made things seem better.  Got it?  Please tell me.  I have a strong feeling I am going to need those words.

I often describe myself as a storyteller.  A more apt description is a story listener.  I listen to stories, funny stories, horrible gut wrenching stories and everything in between.  I listen to stories even when they are not spoken but being told by the tilt of head, an awkward laugh, the clench of hand or the shift of the eyes. 

Last month I spent a couple of weeks in Bangkok meeting my new team members, getting to know them and their experiences and simply just listening to them.  They are amazing, impressive and generally quite amusing.  I laughed a lot and felt welcomed.  But there is a distance present.  They are a tight knit group of people with bonds forged in the harshness of the work they do.  But there is most definitely distance; an underlying remoteness that I guess is the heart and mind’s natural protection.  There were times with these people where the sadness was overwhelming.  I don’t own this sadness.  It is not mine. But as a story listener, as stupid as it might sound to you, sometimes listening hurts.  Really hurts.  I want to be able to say or do that one thing that will make all the difference to that person and their story.  I want to make the sadness go away.  There are moments, rare beautiful moments where just being there makes that difference.  More often than not though, I just feel helpless. 

So how do we cope with helplessness?  Well I have a number of strategies but most of them are not technically the healthiest and most mature of options, and given my parents often read this blog I’ll leave those ones to your imagination. 

So the healthier options?  Um, before I share I should probably give you a geek alert.  Cos, well my latest coping strategy is Gandalf.  Yep, I did really just write Gandalf and yes I do mean the wizard from Lord of the Rings.  I just think of the scene in Two Towers where Gandalf frees Theodred, King of Rohan from the negative influence of Saruman.  When the sadness takes hold of me from listening and feeling these stories I just imagine Gandalf coming to my rescue. 

Oh Gandalf, my hero.

Oh Gandalf, my hero.

Think I’m crazy?  Yeah so do I really.  But hey what ever works, works.  And if that fails I just think of my little niece or nephew currently baking away in my sister’s tummy.  I imagine him/her dancing away with the full protection of my sister and brother-in-law’s love and once again know that worst moments can only be the worst because we have better moments to compare them to.   And when you really think about it, there can only be one worst moment in your life but there can be an infinite number of better moments.

Artistic interpretation of my little niece or nephew as it dances it's way into life.

Artistic interpretation of my little niece or nephew as it dances it’s way into life.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “When listening hurts

  1. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

    • Thanks Mindy. Really appreciate your support for my blog. More than that I appreciate the sentiment of your comment. As silly as this sounds, that is why I wrote this blog. I’m recognising more and more the need to balance of what we do and see with who we are and want to be. Rather than guard my heart I really believe I need to be more open and honest with it so that I don’t allow some of the challenges we see to stop me from still seeing and feeling the beauty and kindness that miraculously prevails.

  2. Great Reflection which demonstrates why you will be great in this role.
    As Pierce said “Break my heart for what breaks yours”, and the ability to empathise deeply will ensure your storytelling is real and honest.

    One key I have found is to find those things – places, people, activities, that restore you. There needs to be time to heal in order to engage in the pain of others in a faithful and real way.

    Plan these time, schedule them proactively.

    Blessed to have people like you as colleagues

  3. Was just this link by a friend that may help some of you non LOTR peeps understand the power of Gandalf https://twitter.com/innocentdrinks/status/303806128612048896/photo/1

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