Blocking out the noise

It seems that this semester is going to be a busy one. Actually, that’s an understatement and any one of my peers would be quick to correct me — it’s going to be hectic, stressful, riddled with anxiety, and a struggle to maintain any semblance of a personal life. Sound bleak? Indeed it does. However, it also means an opportunity for growth and a time where blocking out the noise of all the unnecessary becomes vital. This semester, we’ve added counseling classes to our course load and the emphasis on listening is becoming very evident as a technique and a life skill. How so? In class we’re learning that in order to be truly attentive and present to our clients, we must quiet the voice inside our own head that says, “Fix this!” or “Here’s what you should do!” Actually, we should quiet all of what is running through our head, dominating our thoughts.

Instead, we should be listening to our client until they finish, only then responding with thoughts that we didn’t focus on formulating as they were speaking to us. But how? How do we not think about what we want to say while they’re talking? Well if you’re like me, it’s incredibly difficult. If anything, counseling has already taught me that even if I rein myself in, my tendency to want to jump right into a conversation persists. Jumping right into a conversation is not at all inherently bad, but what results can be. 

Oftentimes when I decide that I’m ready to share, it means I cut people off or interrupt them so I can get my own thoughts out into the world. And sure, it’s mostly because I’m excited about an idea or I think I have a solution to something, but really, is the person I’m with fulfilled by that? What I’m learning is that they’re probably not. They’d probably appreciate it a lot more if I allowed myself to just listen to them. Therein lies the opportunity for growth. Sitting and truly listening to someone without thinking about my response ahead of time, simply being with someone, is a challenge. Sitting in the quiet that follows, the quiet that lingers in the space that I’ve allowed to exist because I haven’t come up with my answer yet, that is the greater challenge. 

Yet, the moment then becomes less about us, and more about the relationship. It helps our clients to know that we’ve focused so much on what they had to share with us, that we didn’t want to rush to judgment, we didn’t taint our dialogue, we simply allowed for it to exist in completion. How often can we say this is true for our relationship with Christ? Sure, I can recognize this communication in my personal and professional relationships. But what about when we think on a deeper level to the relationship we have with Him? How often do we find ourselves interrupting Him? 

In my previous articles I write a lot about the two paths we have in front of us. We have ours, which we plan out meticulously. We see our own vision, a future with a career, a family, and for some, maybe even a timeline for it all to happen on. Some people have their future job nailed down, they’ve got the specifics for their dream home, they know how many children they’ll have and with whom. They’ll be successful, travel the world, retire somewhere warm. For others, their path looks very different, but the fact remains, it’s still their path. But there’s that secondary path that we always tend to forget about. There are things in life that will pop up, that will deter us, throw us off. We’ll be surprised, saddened, angered, and humbled. And we’ll wonder why it was that those things came about to set us on a new path, one that we hadn’t anticipated, one that looks a lot more unfamiliar than our own. 

My message for your February, as you begin to really settle into the path you’ve set for your new year, is simple. If we allow ourselves to block out the noise, to really listen and be in relationship with Christ — without interruptions on our end, without speaking in His place — we may be surprised by what we hear and the reasons behind the bumps, hurdles, and surprises on our path may become more clear.

Anchor columnist Renee Bernier graduated from Stonehill College and is a graduate student  at James Madison University in Harrison, Va.

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