I am thinking about the power of listening. Last week, a friend shared a poem entitled A Prayer for a New Year. I passed it on to the group of women who gather each Wednesday in my living room. We read it slowly and pondered each stanza. When we got to the May you be a respecter of fears line, I stopped and tried to figure out what it could mean for me. When I listen to someone share her heart, I want the pain she is feeling to stop, so I usually burst in with the quickest solution I can think of. I say things like, here’s what you should do, or this happened to me once and this is what I did. Rather than just holding the space for her to safely open her heart and be a witness to her suffering, I try to wrap it all up in a solution. I am very uncomfortable with pain and heartache and I don’t want my loved ones to experience it. But suffering is a guaranteed part of life and the more honestly I embrace it, the more I can move through it and past it.
Yesterday I had a chance to practice space holding for someone I love. My old habits kicked in and I had to willfully stifle the urge to fix, arrange, advice-give, manipulate and control. I wanted to ask questions, clarify her statements and produce an action plan. I am good at problem solving and not so good at being still. Maybe the next time we speak about her struggles she’ll be ready for some of those helpful offerings, but last night all she needed was a listening presence. She needed her fears to be respected.
Being a witness to another soul is a powerful gift to offer. I am hoping 2012 gives me opportunities to offer this gift. I offer to be a witness. I offer to listen. I offer to sit in discomfort while pain is shared. I offer the gift of my presence.