If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom. Job 13:5 (NIV)
Several years ago, one Monday morning, a coworker asked me how my weekend was. I went into a tirade about my dog getting hold of one of my chickens and badly mangling her. I was not sure that she was going to live and made a pen for her in the kitchen to nurse her back to health. After ten minutes of ranting including a thorough explanation of all my work and my anger at the dog, I casually asked him about his weekend. Very calmly, he stated, “My mother died yesterday.” Oh how bad I felt as I thought back to the insignificance of my problems compared to his. I think about that scene frequently and try to use it as a guide to remind me to be the first to ask how someone is feeling before I dump my load upon them. A similar situation happened today. For weeks now, I have griped to anyone who will listen about some choices one of my children is making. I am struggling with letting go and stepping back so he can learn some lessons and experience some consequences. For a long time, I have nurtured him, bailed him out and assisted him so now that he is an adult, even though I recognize the necessary of cutting the strings, it is still very hard to stop helping him. It is like drawing a line in the sand and trying not to cross over it, but finding myself jumping back and forth. I meddle, withdraw, offer support, and rescind my offer. Back and forth I go. Yesterday, I transferred money into his account, then, thirty minutes later thought better of it and transferred it back out. I know the bank must think I’m crazy. And maybe I am. Today, in the midst of my frustration, I learned that an employee was experiencing the second anniversary of his daughter’s death. She was seventeen when she died. We spent some time talking about how much he misses her and all the things he regrets he never got to say to her or do with her. He said he finds it odd that while all his other children are growing up, she will always remain seventeen. I may never truly understand the depths of his grief, but I tried to encourage him by listening. He seemed a little lighter when he left, but for a time, I remained at my desk in silence. For all of my complaining about my child, it could be much much worse. I felt a mix of sadness for him and gratitude that my burden is so much lighter than his. Yet, not one hour later, someone asked me about my child, and I launched into my litany of woes once more. This time, the image of my friend’s grief caught me mid sentence, and I stopped complaining. In the face of his pain, I can learn the wisdom of silence if I am willing to just stop talking.