Saturday, March 03, 2007

Are your ears burning?

I've been thinking a little more about this question of "saying something nice behind someone's back"...It struck me that on one level, it would be far more use to say it to their faces- but then, I'm an ENFP as you're surely tired of hearing, so I tend to have trouble not only discovering what I think but really receiving what others think unless I've heard it.
Very Wise Friend once commented that the measure in which you give affirmation is a pretty good indicator of the measure in which you'd like to receive it, and I do seem to offer quite alot of affirmation around the place almost instinctively, and, on one level, am hugely helped when I receive it.

But (why is there always a but?) there are nonetheless areas (probably those I take most seriously) in which it is almost impossible for me to hear nice things about myself. For the wretched ministerial review, I've had to ask both WonderfulVicar and A. Parishioner to fill in a form as a critical friend. That would have been fine if all that happened was that the form was despatched to the Archdeacon, for discussion on the day of judgement - but the protocol requires that we are given copies of their response in advance. So I've been having to read, there in black and white, some very positive things about the way I do my job - things which, of course, I desperately hope are true, but which it is incredibly hard to hear.
I do wonder about this.
Naturally I would have been devestated if there'd been lots of negatives in the reports, but it was a real struggle to sit there and read lovely things. Modesty is one thing, but acute discomfort is another. I do wonder why this seems to be part of reality for so many. Here's Judy Hirst again,- about whom it's incredibly easy to write positive things, - reassuring me that I'm not alone in this slightly strange affliction.

"We all struggle with learning to see who we are, and to stop hiding from ourselves. One of the givens of living in community that all fo us...have a mirror lifted up to ourselves....What is interesting is that people always suppose that what they will be shown in the "mirror" of our community is their inadequacies and faults. This will sometimes be the case but what is more often shown to us is that which others find delioghtful or helpful, the gifts in which they rejoice. There are ofen much harder for us to take on board than the negative things. I contrast this with an incident with my daughter Beth when she was tiny. I looked at her one day and told her what beautiful eyes she had. I have always remembered her response,
"Yes, Mummy. I know. Thank you."
This gave me real pause for thought as I realised how entirely beyond adults this straightforward response would be. How we have lost the ability to receive good things from each other." (Struggling to be Holy p31)

Typing those words, I was struck afresh by the final sentence. Perhaps the impact of living in a broken world is such that we can no longer expect anything positive from our fellows. We've been given stones too often when we looked for bread.
But today is the most beautiful spring morning, when it's easy to accept the shining optimism of a child - or of Robert Browning
"The year's at the spring and the day's at the morn
Morning's at seven, the hillside's dew-pearl'd The lark's on the wing and the snail's on the thorn God's in his heaven. All's right with the world"

As for me, - I think I've solved the problem of feeding birds and thus luring them to an untimely death. There's a tired crust or two in the bread bin, so I'm off to feed the ducks.
Have a happy day, peoples.


loneparent said...

it's hard to believe good things about yourself when you've lived a long time in the opposite environmant. You end up thinking people are just patronising you when they say nice stuff.

Lorna said...

I think the thing about saying something nice about someone behind their back - is to try to curb our sometimes spiteful tongues. I'm so often reminded of Disney's thumper getting advice from his mum "if you can't say nothing nice say nothing at all - " in Bambi

but better still is looking for the positive in someone you can't stand and speaking up about that good in them -

I know I need to do this more and not begrugingly either!

thanks again Kathryn!

Mary said...

Your comments about listening to people saying nice things are very timely since I spent an hour on the phone last night with someone arguing that the references I and others had written for her were OTT and she is really a Bad Person.... which of course she very much isn't. I've already suggested to her that we should both read the Judy Hirst book - now I know we must (though with the same caveat as Lorna).

Songbird said...

Wish I were feeding them with you.

loneparent said...

I did the feeding the birds thing too with my son this weekend. What is an EFNP?

Ruth said...

I share this problem with you, but have another to add. I feel embarassed when people say nice things about me, but if, amongst 100 nice comments there is one critical one, you can guess what I dwell upon. And boy, do I dwell upon it!

I really wish that I could be a lot more immune to what people think of me (ggod and bad).