Pencils and Talking and No One is Listening

pencils-and-talkingThe boys were given these pencils and, curious about how they worked, asked us as we drove home in the dark.

“They’re pretty fun,” I started. “You use the lead and once it breaks you pull the white piece from the top and put it in the bottom. Then you have a new lead and can keep writing!”

“Really?” Paul asked. “I pull the lead from the bottom and put it in the top.”

And that began a discussion where we both talked but neither one listened because, it turns out, we were saying the same thing but using different words. What I called the “top” of a pencil he was calling the “bottom”, but we didn’t realize that and so we talked and we talked, describing how we used those silly pencils but never really hearing what the other was saying.

Until the car stopped and the lights came on and I showed him how I used the pencil and he laughed, realizing our confusion with words. I am so glad the entire conversation had been light hearted and friendly because, well, how awkward would that have been if one of us felt the other was wrong and we’d had a heated discussion rather than the silly one it was.

The exchange made us both laugh – a perfect illustration of what has been a frequent struggle for us, though usually on heavier matters and often accompanied by the exhausting, self righteous ‘my way is better than yours’ that too often finds itself creeping in.

We talk – intent on saying our bit and not putting effort into hearing the other.
We use words that have different meanings to each of us.
We assume we understand, even go so far as to say “oh yes, I hear you”, even though our focus is on making sure we say our piece.
We don’t break down words and define them.
We don’t repeat, or ask questions, to ensure understanding of what the other said.

So many of our misunderstandings have been over this very thing – we are saying the same thing but using different words and aren’t taking the time to listen. Taking the time to listen, putting aside our own need to speak and just listen {and ask questions to clarify points} can be really hard to remember to do in the moment … but it is the right thing to do.
I will freely admit (and Paul would quickly affirm this!) it is much harder for me to listen then it is for him. But it is something worth struggling for. The efforts put in to really listening result in benefits that are precious.

DSC_6998It is a beautiful journey to walk through life with your best friend – there is much laughter and joy, tears and hours invested in the relationship – and many things to be thankful for. Lessons learned is one thing we are so thankful for, though this is still one we are learning. This week marked our nine year anniversary – nine years of God’s provision and merciful grace. So thankful for that!

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