Thursday, August 3, 2017

Giving and Receiving Suggestions: Thursday's Reflection

Grandson Peter (age 9) and I discovered a new game, Forbidden Island, last week and spent the afternoon playing it at our house. Instead of players competing with each other, players are encouraged to collaborate in order to triumph over the game itself.

If Peter and I had been playing against each other, there is no doubt in my mind he would have won round after round. He caught on much more quickly to the needed strategy and ways to be successful.

Each time when it was my turn, before I even had a chance to scan the board and see my options, he said, "I have a suggestion." He could hardly contain himself, for he knew just what I should do and then what his next move would be. 

I asked him to hold his suggestions until I had a moment to consider what to do. "I won't do anything," I said, "until I check it with you." But that wasn't sufficient for him. He knew the right path and wanted me to know it before I made a mistake.  Eventually, giving in, I laughed, and just did what he told me to do. 

Another Story of Suggestions
As many of you know, during the last few years, I have been writing a spiritual memoir. This summer I hired a writer/teacher whom I respect to read my manuscript and offer me her considered opinion and suggestions. Needless to say I was nervous about her critique. She had many positive things to say, which, of course, pleased me, but (and isn't there always a "but") she also made suggestions that were harder to hear and will be even harder to implement. 

Unlike Peter, however, she didn't demand my immediate response and adherence to what he maintained was "just a suggestion." She, in fact, urged me to take time to reflect on what she said before I do anything. I know I have the right and obligation to decide for myself what changes to make and which ones to disregard, but I also know I asked for her expert opinion and ideas. I owe it to myself and my book to carefully consider everything she said. 

Giving Suggestions
Sometimes I am the one giving suggestions. 

Dear friends are moving into a home that will better meet their needs in the Third Chapter of life, and they are excited, but it is happening faster than anticipated. Bruce and I have had lots of experience moving, and they asked for our suggestions. I hope I didn't overwhelm them with my responses. Ultimately, they will need to make their own decisions and do what is right for them.

When I sit with my spiritual direction clients, I may offer questions to consider or suggest a spiritual practice to try. My intention is to listen carefully before expressing what I hear and what may be a helpful next step. I hope my suggestions lead my clients towards their own insights and the movement of God in their lives.

Responses to Suggestions
Sometimes I respond defensively. 

Sometimes I know I stop listening altogether. 

Sometimes I remind myself to open my heart and listen through the suggestion to the intention of the person making the suggestion. 

And when I am the person being asked for advice, I try to remember to pause and speak from a heart that breathes with humility and love and not judgment. And when I am tempted to share what I think is wise advice, even when it is not solicited, I try, but don't always succeed, to listen even more intently, especially to my own inner voice, before saying anything at all. 

Sometimes, often, in fact, my inner voice, the voice of the being God created me to be, tells me to just be quiet and hold the moment in stillness. Sometimes I actually follow that suggestion. 

An Invitation
How do you respond to suggestions? How do you give suggestions? I would love to know. 

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