"He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words."
Throughout the course of my writing you will no doubt notice (if you haven't already) a tendency to refer back to my car accident of last spring. This is because that event brought with it many unexpected changes, one of which has been an increased interest in others. I hasten to add that it's not a desire to pry into people's personal lives, but rather an intense curiosity in what it is that influences our personality traits. In other words, what makes people tick.
As a result of building gradual trust through friendship, I've had the tremendous privilege of engaging in some fantastic conversation with a select few. I'm not referring to the superficial day-to-day musings we all share, but rather the "My deepest fear is..." or "I've never told anybody this before, but.." conversations that can sometimes lead to the deeper "Let's see if together we can figure out why you feel this way" talks. Talks that take place only when a mutual trust and respect between friends is forged. I say mutual because trust is never, ever one-sided. If I expect someone to feel comfortable enough to open up to me, then I have to be willing to honestly give of myself first. And I am.
Increasingly, I've felt a desire to help others gain insight to their problems. I've always carried that need within myself, why it's intensified recently I'm not sure. Again going back to the events of last year, perhaps I realized we're all here to give selflessly and we should put the focus more on others than ourselves. If I'm honest I suppose I can say there have been many times over the course of my life when I was too self-centred. Perhaps to varying degrees we can all say that, but this is my turn to shine the light on myself. I'll be the first to admit I give advice much more easily and comfortably than I take it.
If there's one thing I've learned over the past couple years it's that most of us aren't as together as we project on the outside. I firmly believe that whether it relates to relationships, career, spiritual journey or other areas of our lives we all have some part of us that is looking for direction, or at least affirmation that we're on the right track.
I think all of us are fighting some sort of internal battle, and we all build walls of varying heights and strengths. Some of us will let our defences down at the flash of a genuine, friendly smile. Others won't let anyone in because they never want to be hurt again. What a lot of people don't seem to realize is that although those walls may be high, even insurmountable at times, they're often pretty transparent.
I'm going to go out on a limb and state that I believe most people feel an inherent desire to discuss their problems, to trust someone enough to listen. So many people don't show it. The challenge comes in making that connection, or rather, distinguishing between those who want to let us in and those who just want to be left alone.
So how do we make that distiction? Usually we can't, as most of us are guarded. I've never tried to force someone to open up to me, all I can do is let them know I'm here to listen if they ever want to talk. When someone's ready to let me in they will. It's usually through a series of small, carefully-planted steps. That process is the most amazing thing in the world to me, because I believe a person growing to place their trust in you enough to let their guard down is about the biggest honour a person can place on another.
When someone opens up to us, their words are ours to keep safe and never betray. What may at first seem insignificant could take every bit of strength they have to share with us.
We owe it to people to listen.