Listening to your Family

I’ve been writing about writing on Thursdays, community on Saturdays. If you missed the Fusions in the Void check the archives, especially if you’re in a valley or desert season in your life, or in what has traditionally been known as The Dark Night of the Soul since St. John of the Cross identified it that way. That series ran every Tuesday for the last 15 weeks.

Time for something new on Tuesdays, and I guess at least for a one-off I’ll talk about Motivational Listening again. Once the holidays are over I’ll evaluate whether I want to run a series on Tuesdays or just do one-offs on listening. Feel free to drop me a comment and leave a request for me to comment on any particular topic.

Listening to your family:

I get so busy with coaching clients sometimes that I forget to listen carefully to the few things my children and my wife say to me. This is so convicting, it’s worth writing about over and over.

Around Christmas and New Year’s we get together with the people we most need to listen to, and we do our best to ignore their opinions and ideas. Sometimes that’s healthy. My sister-in-law announced to the entire family on Christmas Day at breakfast that she hoped we could suspend any political discussions for a day. And it’s not that we fight, so much, it’s just that we can spend one day enjoying each others’ company without digging into things that can cause friction. So we stayed away from it, because, sister, I’m listening. If you listen for peoples’ desire for peace, you can support it.

My mother-in-law said grace at brunch on Christmas Day. Halfway in she choked up, to her own surprise. She’s so grateful for the grandkids; I think she’s pleased, for the most part, with even her sons-in-law. I’m grateful for a mother-in-law who loves the family so much that praying over them would move her to tears. Mom, I’m listening. If you listen to people, you can see where their love rests, and learn from their love.

My father-in-law, a staunch Republican, surprised me this morning (the moratorium on politics over) that he’s thinking about voting for [candidate X] because he’d rather have [ideology X] in the White House than [Lord and Master of the Minions and Inhabitants of Hades X]. At first I thought he was joking, but realized that he’s not missing the big picture when he watches the GOP debates. I’m listening. He often comes across with self-degrading language that indicates we who have college degrees are smarter than he is. This is not true. He has a variety of street smarts I’ll never touch. If you listen to people, really listen, you’ll begin to see where they know more than you do, and recognize the places where you can learn from them.

My wife asked me (as I posted in a different discussion Saturday about community) to make sure to spend time with my children during the vacation, and not immerse myself in books and writing while we’re at the in-laws. I’m listening. She’s going out with her sisters this afternoon to see about mounting her deceased grandmother’s diamonds. I’ll be parent-on-duty. It’ll be fun! The kids are having such a great time with their gifts, and with their cousins. If you listen to your spouse and children, you’re clued in to their needs, and you can give them what they hope for. Jesus talked about how if a son asks his father for a fish, would he give him a stone? No! Unless he isn’t listening. Then, he might give him a stone, or just nothing. Listen, then give fish.

My dad likes to give people five dollar bills on occasion and not for any reason that they earned, but just because he loves them. He calls it “a fish”, too. I love to tell my kids I’m proud of them. They always say “why?” and I say, “because you’re my son/daughter. That’s all the reason I need.” This builds the relational capital they’ll need to have with me one day when it’s time to come to me and tell me something they’re afraid I don’t want to hear. I only hope they trust me enough to tell me. To know that I’ll be listening.

Listening like this happens out of unconditional love for one another. Learning to listen better is the best gift we can give each other for the New Year.

Once in a while at the end of my blog I like to remind you that I have books for sale and would love to sign one for you and ship it out. Please cruise over to the bookstore and purchase one … or both! I appreciate your support!

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adamgfleming

The author lives in Goshen, Indiana with his wife and four children. He is self-employed as a leadership coach working with business executives, writers and other artists, and spiritual leaders. His clients enjoy business growth, increased vision and purpose, work/family lifestyle balance, and freedom from writer’s block.

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