Winning Half the Babble

It was the three of us that night. It was grown men slumming it on the couch, randomly browsing through Facebook, acting like jokers. We were enjoying ourselves when, seemingly out of nowhere, we found ourselves in the middle of a heated discussion. Words were being exchanged but something wasn’t getting across.

I felt like a dead mic. As though I were saying all the right things but the amp had blown up. Static. It was frustrating. No matter what I had to say or how appropriate I thought it was, he wasn’t hearing it.

Then finally he broke. “I already know all this, man. I’m just trying to explain how I’m feeling but ya’ll won’t listen. You’re just trying to tell me what’s right. Sometimes, it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s just knowing that there’s someone who sides with you.”

The funny thing is he felt the same way I did.

It’s a tricky thing–that thing they call communication. We know it’s the key to any solid relationship. It sounds basic. Yet, it’s one of the hardest things on earth to master. I know this because I’ve been in situations in which there was a lapse of communication. I know this because as a speaker and writer I still find myself constantly misunderstood. And there wouldn’t be so many books written on this topic and this entry wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t.

We can talk about all the various psychological, biological and other factors involved here. How most men are wired or trained to fix a problem or share facts and figures (“report talk”), whereas women look to talk for the sake of intimacy and building relationship (“rapport talk”). Or how men talk to establish status while women talk to express feelings. Blah blah blah…

Perhaps some of that might explain why we weren’t totally getting him. He was cutting loose on his innards while we just wanted facts and resolution to the matter.

But…

What I think it boils down to is this. Being quick to listen, slow to speak. It’s about learning to understand people’s perspective, sympathize with their story, and reassure them that you “get them” before you get in your two cents.

It might be difficult for some of us because we live in a society that has taught us to look for quick fixes, assume the worst about others, and make our voices heard. We are the iGeneration that has become all about self and consumption and words like “easy” and “instantaneous.” (Perhaps this is why DFW’s commencement speech resonates so much with us in our present time.)

But I had to ask myself: How many of my past friendships and relationships have been lost on this failure to communicate? To really listen to their fears, needs and struggles? To side with them, regardless of whether they were wrong or right?

As I sat there for the remainder of the evening, I tried to listen. I had to die to my need to speak. I had to lay aside my subconscious want to claim independence or wisdom by saying the “right things.” He needed open ears more than sharp counsel.

After all, he knew the battle that he was fighting. He didn’t need me to tell him who the enemy was or how to put on his flak jacket. At the end of the day, he just needed to know that there was a brother who was with him in the trenches.

“I’m with you, bro.”

Sometimes, that’s all it takes for a man to gear up and fight another day.

Living the Love Story

I read a recent post by Don Miller that talked about love and what it meant for both men and women to be the right people and look for the right things. If you haven’t read it yet, please close this blog and go there instead. Really, it’s a good read.

That entry is what actually inspired this post.

Because it got me to thinking about all the wonderful ladies I’ve met recently and all throughout my life and how society has got me into this twisted idea of what love is, when the truth is finally staring me in the face and telling me otherwise.

Love is…?

Sure, it can be summed up in a famous Bible passage or expressed in a Shakespearean sonnet. But I look at some of those around me and see how they are living their love stories and I begin to understand a little more what it all means. When I go to weddings and see the fresh kindling of emotion. Sure, it involves that. Then I look at my parents and see how love endures. How deep their care and patience is with each other. That is love evolved.

Then I think bout my good friend “Devin” and how he was living his love story. He was single for 28 years. (Twenty-eight years…the Internet, cellular phones, Starbucks and Justin Bieber have all been invented since that time!) Boy meets girl at a church. After a few brief conversations and encounters, he decides he would like to pursue her. So he writes her a letter, declaring his intentions right out in the open. Heart on the table. Hand-written. Probably sealed with a kiss. She says yes. Then on their first date, he tells her, “I am going to be as upfront and honest with you throughout this thing because I don’t want you to think you are dating somebody you are not. I am going to give you every reason to dump me.” Wait, he just did what? Is that irrational confidence? Balls over brains? The most logical man couldn’t explain it. But it’s been four months, and they are going stronger than ever.

Now tell me that’s not a freaking man.

I mean, when I heard that, I was like thanks for raising the bar for every other mortal man in the world. Do I have to bust out my quill pen, and write a French novel in calligraphy for her? Do I just tell her “Hey I’m just going to DO ME, fart around and pick my butt, because I’m going to give you every reason to dump me…?” Say what? Something tells me that she would actually dump me. Like a truck.

But really. What it comes down to is this. A man who said to himself that if she is worth it, if she is the one I should be with, then I am going to let God build it. I’m not going to try to spit any game. Not trying to put my best foot forward. As flawed and imperfect as I am, I’m just going to do my best to lead her and love her. And she’ll know how much I care because it will be real and genuine.

Young bucks out there need to listen up–this is what a real man does. He’s not trying to take advantage of her. He’s not putting in only so that she will put out. No. A real man points her to something and someone bigger than himself. He has her best interests in mind.

A real man would lay down his very life for his woman.

So that’s what I’m praying for myself. God, may You build it. Whoever she is, wherever she is, let it be that we are both running so hard after the kingdom that what binds us together won’t be a mere physical or metaphysical grasping of love, but that it will actually be a romance forged in the depths of the spirit. A love written on our hearts, inscribed in our souls. A love that says I love in spite of, regardless, even though…

That’s the love story I want to be written. But on my own I can’t write it. I’m smart enough to let God take the pen on this one.

And it’ll be one heck of a love story, too.