Friday, September 19, 2008

Virtuous or Vicious?

A former professor of mine made the following observation about speaking what we feel. I really appreciated the conversation that came out of it and felt that it speaks directly of the underlying hope for balance within the idea of SWWF:

Dr. Mitchell:
"You know there's a lot to be said for this idea, but I wonder when our right to speak what we feel violates the need of others not to hear these things from us. Any thoughts? Seriously, I don't always know where the line is."

My response:
"Agreed. We live in a ego-pampered, psychology-hyped culture, steeped in two generations that "talk about our feelings" and talk about everything; indeed, in (over)reaction against the generations before us who repressively talked too little, we talk too much. So again, I agree. A balance must be struck. Although 'struck' isn't quite right; it implies balance can be achieved, when in actuality, we are striving in constant tension. And balance ebbs and flows; it cannot be found in one spot. It is a chase, a dance. And this striving requires humility, thoughtfullness of the other. In this dance, we trip over our partner's feet and we trip over our own feet; we practice and we learn. With each new partner we must adjust our rhythm, learn new steps and relearn old ones. A pair dances as one, yet not at the cost of each individual's distinction."

Dr. Mitchell:
"I appreciate your dance metaphor and you're so right that we will trip each other up--in friendship, in marriage, in teaching and learning, and in community involvement. I was talking to two students today, and they suggest that they had begun to read poetry because it seemed (among other things) a path between dogmatism and relativism. I suspect that some poetry can model for us that mixture of openness and humble respect for the other. Of course, then, there's poetry that is the entire opposite of this--slam in your face and yo'motha's. . . "

An ellipses is the perfect way to 'end' this conversation; it embodies the ebb and flow of balance. Thank you Dr. Mitchell for your thoughts and your friendship.

1 comment:

John said...

Hi Renea,
I'd like to chime in here. I think speaking what we feel can be both vicious and virtuous. It all depends on why we are speaking it, what is our motivation for telling the person?

Now, if your motivation for speaking what feel is so that you are not a doormat, then I would say that is probably a good thing. But are you doing it in a loving way? Or are you being a jerk because people have walked on you in the past and you don't want it to happen again?
Sometimes speaking what we feel does a lot more damage than not speaking would. It may seem to us like we are just helping the other person out, when in actuality we are just seeking to hurt them.
I also appreciate your dance metaphor, because conversation really is an act of give and take, step and step, lead and follow.

So I would say that speaking what you feel is a both/and here, Renea. Haha. We must seek to love others, but we must also be honest with ourselves and others and know when to say "no", but also realize that at times (especially in the context of relationship) we are going to have to put the other person's needs in front of us. But that does not mean making ourselves a doormat and not having a voice!

I miss you, Renea.