Hearing Others, Not Fixing Them

I once worked with a guy for about six years. He was always in trouble with his wife. She would talk to him about a problem at work. He’d offer suggestions about how to fix the situation. She ignored the advice and would be not happy with him. “Brian,” I’d say, “she doesn’t want a solution. She’s smart. She’ll figure it out. She just wants you to listen.” He was an engineer. I don’t know if it was an engineer thing, or a man thing, or just a thing thing.

If we want to support each other’s inner lives, we must remember a simple truth: the human soul does not want to be fixed, it wants simply to be seen and heard. If we want to see and hear a person’s soul, there is another truth we must remember: the soul is like a wild animal – tough, resilient, and yet shy. When we go crashing through the woods shouting for it to come out so we can help it, the soul will stay in hiding. But if we are willing to sit quietly and wait for a while, the soul may show itself.

Parker J. Palmer

I think this sit quietly and wait and listen that Parker Palmer talks about is the real key. Some try to order others around. They’ll fix you if you just do as they order. Perhaps more like a dog or cat is “fixed”, than finding a solution. Or helping some soul in need.

Some competent engineers in Texas could fix the power grid problem, if empowered.

Competent engineering, the trained problem-solvers among us, fail to help the human soul. Somewhat perversely, that takes more inaction than action. Sitting quietly and waiting on God is perhaps the hardest spiritual formation task of all.

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