Listening to the Kernel of Truth
Who knows you better than anyone in the world? Take a moment and think about it. For me the answer is simple: my wife, Christie. I’d like to think I know her better than anyone as well.
Why do I say she knows me better than anyone in the world? That’s easy. She lives with me and sees me at my best, and at my worst. She sees me when I’ve had too little sleep and am cranky. She sees me when someone cuts me off in bumper-to-bumper traffic. She sees me when we’ve got more month than we have money. In other words, she sees me in the cracks and crevices of real life, not just when I’m posturing to make a favorable impression.
This unique position—knowing the real me—gives her a perspective like none other. This perspective can be invaluable to me if I can set my ego aside long enough to prosper from it.
Consider the possibilities: Christie can see my strengths and weaknesses. She can champion me as well as point out my blind spots. She has the capability of “covering my back.” She can live out what God had in mind when He said our spouse was to be our “helpmate.”
Perhaps you aren’t married, yet you live in a world of relationships. You have friends who know you very well. Perhaps you are close to your family of origin who know your quirks, shortcomings and challenges. These people can be of immense worth to you if you are truly interested in personal growth.
Our mates, friends or families, however, can only be as helpful as we allow them to be. Too often, we give these people very clear restrictions. We only want to hear good news; we only want praise; we only want to be told what a wonderful job we’re doing. What if, in addition to being praised, we invited certain people to tell us information that would not be flattering, but would be immensely helpful? Would you want that information?
Couples who come to work with me at The Marriage Recovery Center almost always have one thing in common: they’re defensive and resist hearing what their mate tells them. Caught in a vicious cycle of defensiveness, they don’t validate their mate nor do they listen with caring ears to what their mate is trying to tell them. This leaves them stuck, rigid and refusing to grow.
I have a challenge I want to present to all of you—and am willing to take the challenge myself. It goes like this:
For one day, invite your mate, family member or friend, to give you feedback on some important issue in your life. You cannot dictate what kind of truth they give you, nor do you have to accept everything they tell you as gospel. The only requirement is that you lower your defenses and listen for “the kernel of truth” in what they’re saying. Listen carefully to find the nugget of information that can be immensely helpful.
Let me offer an example from an exchange my wife and I had recently. As Christie and I were preparing to go on vacation, she asked if I would limit how much work I took on our trip. Initially feeling defensive, I quieted the stirrings of my ego that wanted to offer rationales for why I needed to work on vacation. Instead, I listened for “the kernel of truth,” which was, of course, that she wanted to have fun on our vacation and wanted me to be available to her. Sitting back and reflecting, it was easy for me to see that there was at least a kernel of truth in what she was saying. The truth of the matter is:
--I do tend to work too much while on vacation
--She does deserve for me to be available to her.
--It is important for me to have fun.
--I can limit my work as well as have a good time with her.
You can see that listening to my wife helps me. I reserve the right not to incorporate everything she tells me, but have adopted “the kernel of truth technique” as a way of listening without defensiveness—most times! I acknowledge to her, and myself, that she never says something to me to simply hurt me, but has my best interests in mind. I’m also aware that when I listen for truth in what she says, there’s always at least a kernel of truth in it, and I can profit from listening to her.
So, will you take the challenge? If so, I want you to ask someone close to you to speak truth to you, lovingly and clearly, on one day.
Then I want you to listen, sifting through what they say for at least a “kernel of truth.” Maybe you’ll find a bucketful of truth, but hopefully you’ll find at least a kernel of truth. Make a note of what they tell you, seeing it as information given for your own good.
Last, I want you to share what you’ve learned with me and other readers. Were you able to lower your defenses enough to hear some truth? Was the truth helpful? Did it change how you listened on other occasions? Send your insights to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com. You can also read more about my work on my website, www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com.