September 23

Really Listening: It is NOT Complicated

September 23, 2011

Marriage

Sharon called me and said, “All Justin can talk about is work and money: this deal, that deal, making money, losing money. It never stops.”

“And then you’re supposed to respond to each of the issues he brings up, right?” I asked.

“Yes. I listen and listen, and it doesn’t seem to do any good.”

“No, you’re really not listening.”

“Yes, I am. I listen for hours. Sometimes I can hardly stand it.”

“Oh, I get that for hours you’re in the same room as he is, but you’re not really listening. You’re not hearing what he’s really saying, so he feels like he has to say it over and over again. In your defense, he doesn’t know what he’s really saying either.”

“Okay, so what is he really saying?”

“He’s saying that he’s scared to death. All the time. You have to respond to his real message, or this will never change.”

“So what exactly do I say?”

“Say this, exactly: ‘Justin, you’re talking about money again. And work. It’s what you’ve done for years. I don’t mind—I’ll listen to you as long as it takes—but you’re not seeing what’s underneath it all. You’re just afraid. So let’s look at what you’re afraid of, or it will keep you prisoner forever. Let’s look at the worst that could happen—in your eyes—and then you’ll know what you’re really afraid of. You’re afraid that you’ll fail. You’re afraid that we’ll lose everything—the house, the vacations, whatever—and that we’ll be bankrupt and will starve to death. And you’re afraid that you’ll look like a failure.’

“Now,” I continued, “do you see that this is what he’s really afraid of?”

“Yes, I do. I wouldn’t have been able to say it that clearly, but that’s it. So what do I say after that?”

“Tell him that we can’t be free until we can face what we’re most afraid of. Tell him that you don’t care if all those things happen. What if they do? So what?! If you lose everything, you can live in a tiny apartment and learn to live on much less income. Why does he need to see this? Because when he realizes he can live with the worst that can happen, none of it can frighten him anymore. The problem isn’t what he’s afraid of. The problem is his fear. His fears have been paralyzing him, actually causing him to make worse decisions. He has to face the fears, so he can function. Without fear, he can then just take the next one step, instead of worrying about the next hundred steps.”
“It sounds simple.”

“It is simple. It takes a lot of faith—which is difficult in the beginning—but not being afraid is a far simpler and easier way to live. If he brings up his fears again later, you say all this again, but perhaps in a shorter version: ‘Justin, you’re giving in to your fears. Remember, we can lose everything and still be happy. Just keep taking the next one step.’ Think you can do that?”

We cannot function in fear. We can’t be happy, we can’t make good decisions, and we feel hopeless. Do whatever it takes to get rid of your own fears—which means get all the Real Love you can—and do what you can to really listen to the fears of others.

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