Listen! The Great Commandment & Strange Manicures in Bars
Perhaps there is nothing more frustrating than being misunderstood, which is usually the by-product of not being heard. I admit, I struggle with ADHD, and I am easily distracted by my mind, shiny things, and tacos. This is a rally cry, so just listen… er, read on?
But I do try and get in the zone and listen. Similarly, I can zone out like a champ when a teen’s playbill music, from Hairspray, is blaring, our young sons, Sam and Charlie, aka the vandals, are making “instrooomants” out of old water bottles and pennies, or my husband, Justin, is crooning off-key to The Carpenters. And yes, I do mean the Carpenters.
So, I know, some things we don’t hear or choose not to, and often that makes it impossible to understand what someone else is saying, feeling, or needing.
I recall, several years ago, our oldest daughter, Maggie came home from college for the weekend, and she brought a friend with her. Over dinner, we talked about all the things associated with university life.
Sometime after Justin’s third helping of Sunday lunch, we lost his full attention, he wasn’t able to listen.
Maggie pulled her phone out of her bag and showed us an article about an inventive group of fraternity brothers who had patented an invention. The collaborative was fingernail polish. The polish was an effort to prevent date rapes and involuntary drug consumption.
The product, which is applied just like regular nail polish, allows the wearer to stick her finger in her drink and test to see if the beverage is laced with “roofies,” also known as the date rape drug. If the drink has in fact been tampered with, the nail polish will turn a different color.
In a state of severe fullness, and truthfully, the powerlessness to be in social encounters for more than 24.7 minutes, Justin did not hear the entirety of the conversation. The part that zapped him back into the here and now may have been “creepy old man, date rape, nail polish, in a bar.”
He came to and barked, “WHAT?!?!?!” And then turned a foreboding glare at Maggie. His heavy hand slammed on the table, and he commanded, “MARY MARGARET! YOU ARE NEVER TO LET ANYONE IN A BAR PAINT YOUR FINGERNAILS! WE RAISED YOU TO KNOW BETTER THAN THAT! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!?!?”
We were in the floor, crying-laughing, unable to explain to Justin that his beloved, baby girl, Mary Margaret was not frequenting bars and asking strange men for manicures.
He didn’t think it was funny.
In his defense, lunch was fantastic and rich in carbohydrates, he’d been stretched to his ranch-wandering-unaccompanied, introvert-ism limits. Truly, we had been sitting talking for at least two hours, and the trigger words “date rape and Maggie” are not allowed in his company.
However, it is a vivid memory and for me, a lesson in hearing well. I propose it is when we don’t listen, that many of us are unable to follow through on the greatest commandment, LOVE.
And believe me, some people are harder to love than others, I am probably one of them. Furthermore, sometimes it is harder to listen when someone isn’t honest. For example, I stopped listening to the vandals excuse that they “forgot they shouldn’t pour a gallon of Elmer’s glue all over the dining room chairs.”
They haven’t forgotten my wrath, I promise. The boys and the neighbors heard me loud and clear.
However, I have come to a place of cherishing a good listen. Even when I don’t agree, truly, it has become a pleasure to step into a place and fully hear another’s point of view.
And this is most poignant in my life, I don’t have to isolate myself from those that aren’t in the exact same place as me. The truth is, I am entirely different than I was, even yesterday.
And I attribute that to listening well.
Greater still, I am fascinated when opinions turn into polarizations, and we isolate ourselves from anyone with whom we do not agree. I believe this term is simply coined, “preaching to the choir” and only having an ear if it suits us.
Furthermore, I can hear the arguments boldly, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and calling out sin, but that wolf cannot “baaaa” like a sheep, it can only howl like a dog. And frankly, I don’t know anyone who changed their mind through brute force. Well, unless they were waterboarded, denied food or drugged and debased.Furthermore, I can hear the arguments boldly, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and calling out sin, but that wolf cannot “baaaa” like a sheep, it can only bark like a dog.Click To Tweet
Which I might add, is the opposite of love.
Listen, and listen well.
Hear what someone has to say. I have had the honor of stepping into circles I did not understand. Some of them I still don’t, but you know, it is in that space I have heard, and been heard.
One on one, apart from the loud rallies of right and wrong, I have met extraordinary humans, who love the same Jesus and want the same thing I want – to be heard.
A couple months ago I had an encounter with a young man, someone that truly despised me. He wasn’t my favorite either, but after several awkward moments alone he said, “I cannot stomach anyone who champions Donald Trump.” I was confused and looked behind me. He snort-laughed, “I am talking to you.”
“What are you talking about?” I inquired.
And he barked, “You! You are a Trump-lover!” I am not confrontational, but I was backed into a corner, and “Trump-lover” was not something I wanted to be attached to my person, nor do I fashion a t-shirt or bumper sticker to the proclamation. “Uh, I am a military mom. My son is a Marine. Trump is the commander-in-chief, in some odd calamity in the universe where the president was named as if he was about to become a reality television joke casting call.”
His posture softened, and he actually laughed.
What proceeded was a conversation between two Americans, shockingly on the exact same page on 89% of the issues (that isn’t an exact figure, I don’t do math.) He was wise in what he knew about politics, history, and policy. I was passionate about babies, foster care reform, and women. We volleyed hurts, concerns, and questions. To which neither of us has the answers, but both pray to the same God about… constantly. As the encounter was just about to an end, he said, “You know, I really think the greatest barrier to a unified nation is deaf ears. People, like me, take great offense to things, sometimes, a conversation is the best solution.”
Right before we attempted to part ways, he said, “I admire you for having the guts to do foster care and be around ‘those kind of trashy people.’”
Insert record scratch.
It’s on buddy.
We finished up an hour later… he heard me, in stereo surround sound.
Who are those people? People, who make mistakes? Real people, who haven’t been heard? Humans who fell on hard times, and need redemption… like you and me? No, I am not advocating for child abusers and people endangering children. But yes, HECK YES, I want to be accused of hearing the story behind the hurt and listening.
Let it be said of me, I will listen, and God willing, with Him as my whole heart, I will love.
Listen, hear, and love, repeat. And friend, never, no never, let a strange man paint your nails in a bar.
You know better.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
Matthew 22:39 ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
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