Listen and Learn
That was the topic of a recent Al-Anon meeting.
This particular meeting features a slogan or Just for Today once a month. I appreciated this one because it’s a slogan that doesn’t often get much discussion. And I know my Higher Power is working in my life because this is a tool I need.
I have a listening deficit. I never realized this before, but now I can clearly see it’s part and parcel of my disease.
This particular defect of character was aggravatingly brought to my attention about a dozen years ago. I was dating a guy who used to get furious with me because (he said) I always interrupted him when he was talking.
“I do not,” I said, interrupting him to argue the point.
So every time I interrupted him, he’d point it out to me.
“There,” he’d say. “You just interrupted me again.”
It was infuriating. Probably because he was right. My stock response to someone pointing out a defect of mine was to deny or get angry, or both.
If I ever run into this guy again, I need to thank him because made me acutely aware of when I do this.
For a while.
I’ve caught myself doing it again. A lot.
If I’m honest, I will admit to less than honorable reasons for interrupting someone.
Something the other person said reminds me of something and I’m afraid I might forget it by the time they are finished.
I interrupt because I think I have the answer to some problem. Or I think relating my own experience in this area is very, very important to share.
Or I want to demonstrate how smart/educated/sympathetic/right I am.
The common denominator, of course, is me.
“Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles,” the Big Book says. In my line of sponsorship, we read this section out loud as part of our step work. But we change any references to the alcoholic with “I” and references to “drinking” with “thinking.”
Every time I read this with a sponsee, it rings more true. Every time I read this I’m reminded that my disease is just the flip side of the same malady the alcoholic suffers from. We are really not that much different. Our diseases just manifest themselves differently.
The real trouble with all this self-will run riot is that it’s the opposite of humility, and I need to be humble if I am to get better. For without humility, I am not teachable. If I know everything, if I have all the answers, nothing you can say can have any value to me.
Yet, if there is anything I’ve learned in this program, it’s that you never know who your teacher is going to be.
If I am busy formulating my response while you are speaking, then I’m not hearing you. I’ve missed what you’ve just said. And maybe you’ve said something I needed to hear. But I won’t know that.
Meetings are the perfect place to practice. It strikes me as genius that we must listen without responding until it is our turn to talk. But instead of thinking about what I’m going to share when it’s my turn, I’m going to really try to just listen instead.
Maybe I’ll learn something.
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