Do you ever feel like you’re trapped in your own head? When I go to sleep at night, I find that if I’m not calm or tired, my brain feels like it’s firing a thousand thoughts at once and it is almost as if it’s too loud for me to go to sleep (even though on the outside, one could likely hear a pin drop). One of the loudest voices in my head is always that one which seeks to constantly criticise (for ill) my own actions and thoughts.
Too many voices can be a distracting thing, and it is easy to understand why one might feel like shutting them out. Nobody enjoys being told that what they are doing is incorrect or poorly thought out, and yet, I believe it may be one of our greatest tools.
Listen to others
It is perhaps obvious where I am going with this, but it has been on my mind a lot this month. There have been a few times this month where I have been totally honest in my thinking, and one of the things I’ve valued most in doing this is the way in which the person I’m talking with can offer different, challenging perspectives on what I believe. It is refreshing and reminds me to reconsider things constantly and never think I know enough about anything.
When I am writing this, I think of times when I have been in leadership positions. Times where I have been the person everyone has to go to, and the one who makes the decisions and explains the ‘why’ of them. One of the more difficult things that can happen in these positions is when someone on your team disagrees. When they disagree a LOT.
Suddenly, you have someone who you need to make something happen, and they refuse to on a completely personal basis; they dislike your idea and think it should be done differently. It is times like these where you simply want to shut out what is being said to you and continue with your own idea. After all, it is your idea, how could it be wrong?
This can be a hard position to be in both as a leader and as a servant/follower; the leader will need to take responsibility for whatever the result is, while the servant/follower may have to watch the leader fail when they could have insight into why and will feel despondent about the prospect of ever sharing again. While the servant/follower may have committed themselves to seeing the leader’s vision outworked, they may feel as if they have made a poor decision and lose trust in the leader.
Be open to other ideas
Not to say this whole idea of remaining in dialogue is solely for leaders in Christian contexts, I am simply demonstrating one aspect; if leaders are open to ideas and suggestions, and perhaps have someone they can trust to be completely open with who is not quite as likeminded, just as iron sharpens iron, so too will one’s ideas sharpen another’s. Sometimes, it is through contrast that greater results are found.
This is essentially democracy, I suppose. However, there is a reason the democratic method has survived so long. The term ‘echo chamber’ comes to mind for me; the idea of a space where an individual encounters only ideas and thoughts that are the same as their own. This is an incredibly dangerous space, as it enables the individual to never be challenged on their ideas, and to never have to push themselves to be greater.
I do not want to be unfair. The purpose of my intro was to show that; I wouldn’t want to discount the negativity that can come from people who simply run their mouths on any thought or idea, it can be quite gruelling and disheartening. It is completely fair that you might seek to escape that. I suppose what’s on my mind is a small reminder on the nature of making sure you have someone to talk to – someone you can be honest with and can challenge you in a safe and trustworthy way.
Jordan Peterson writes “Assume that the person you’re listening to might know something you don’t”. This is one of his “12 rules for life” which has stuck most with me; it is a mantra I try to repeat to myself as often as I can, because more often than not it’s true.
Other people have totally different experiences, and so it is of utmost important that we remember this; listen. People see things that we don’t, and as easy as it is to get used to our own comfort zone, the way we can continue seeing the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth is through breaking through it and embodying Christ’s love.
Remain in dialogue with someone. Let them say to you what needs to be said. Human beings are social creatures, we must strive not to be stuck in our own heads and to let people know what we are thinking, or else we run a great risk to not only ourselves, but the hearts and minds of those around us.
Josiah Gray lives in Logan City, Australia. He is currently studying teaching at Christian Heritage College and is committed to telling the story of Jesus to the next generation. Josiah’s previous articles may be viewed at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/josiah-gray.html