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The Spirituality of Relationship

butterfly on tithoniaBy Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of theirLeading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog and is one of the social media coordinators for the Shalem Institute Facebook page.

My 21-year-old daughter has an internship on The Hill this summer. It’s been a deep, formative experience and we were talking about it the other day. This is a crossroads period for her. She is getting ready to enter her senior year in college, full of questions of her future.

As we sat at the kitchen table, I was so aware of the need to keep my mouth closed and just listen. So often just verbalizing feelings and thoughts helps to put them into perspective, helps us to make more sense of them. When we feel unheard or talked over, it puts an end to this opening. It’s so easy, especially as a parent, to fall into giving advice.

She was born independent and ready to race out and love the world, so I learned early on (after much trial and error) to ask, “How would you like me to respond?” when she tells me something weighty. In other words, how can I support you in your journey? Sometimes she wants advice, but sometimes she just wants to vent or for me to bear witness. It also allows me a chance to pray into the experience, “Dear One, please let me be a conduit for your words. Hold this child of yours in the Light.”

This also reminds me that although I gave birth to her, I am not in charge and I am in no way in control. She taught me that as a baby, as all babies do. (You think you’re going to sleep now, but this little one has other plans!) It is her journey and I am just a passenger in her car.

Of course listening, not giving advice, and realizing we’re not in control works with everyone, not just our children. And it works at all times, not just when something “big” is happening.

My prayer broadens out: How can I be a supportive companion more often?

What is your experience?

6 responses to “The Spirituality of Relationship”

  1. Absolutely! I just think of what I appreciate if I’m sharing a story. What I DON”T need is, “Oh yeah, that happened to me…” or “Here’s what you should do…”
    I just want questions, which let me know the person is listening and also help me to think things through and process. And understanding and compassion, of course.
    I’ve always wanted to participate in a Quaker-type “clearness committee” or “circle of trust.” Have you ever done something like that? I’ve engaged in Group Spiritual Direction, which is sort of like that, I guess but more structured. Jesus always asked questions and listened with discernment to see where the person’s heart lay. It’s one of the important reasons we need community and can’t take our faith walks all by ourselves. Thanks!

    • Melanie–I have participated in Quaker clearness committees and they can be wonderful communities of listening. The old two-ears-to-one-mouth-ratio situation! You are so right, we can’t take our faith walks by ourselves. Thank you!

  2. As a parent of a 19 year old and a 20 year old, this is wise advice. We just need to listen more. Thanks!

  3. Stephanie–One of THEE best things to come of my participation in the PSDP with you and Nicholas–was the exposure to the importance of true listening. You were so good at modeling genuine
    listening. You’d be surprised at how very often I remember that model and you — and keep my mouth closed.

  4. a quiet walk says:

    Deep listening is the hardest act of love I have to do. I so much want to help, but most often my help isn’t what is needed. Thank you for your reminder of just how important to simply be and listen to the other.

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