Listening without judgement

Listening without judgement

Talk less. Listen more.

Recently this adage came up at a meeting of parents whose sons and daughters suffer with addiction.

Heads nodded. Yes, we all were guilty. We spoke too much, listened too little.
And we were quick to judge.

There was a time when Jacob neither spoke nor listened.

At first, I thought it was just an adolescent thing.
Don’t most teenagers ignore their parents? Spend less and less time with them? Eschew their presence for the camaraderie of peers?

During his early high school years, whenever I watched him with a group of friends – at a cross country meet or in the band room – I always left with a smile. My son was growing up. It was natural and appropriate. My world felt calm, secure, and safe.

Until it didn’t.

Somewhere in that senior year of high school we stopped talking.
The street side kitchen door would fly open. Jacob would storm upstairs to his room with barely a grunt.

“Jacob, we need to talk,” I’d call after him.

When we did, I talked. There was rarely a we.

Looking back on those “conversations,” even though I tried hard to understand him  – and without judgement –  I failed over and over again. Denial, then disbelief, then anger hung heavily over every accusation, plea or demand I made.

We stood in the kitchen, mostly staring at the floor. It hurt to look at him. When I did, it broke my heart. All that was left was a mother trying desperately to reach her son….to find the “talk” to which he would “listen.”

I never heard what he was trying to say. I wasn’t listening.

It would take time in recovery – both for Jacob and me – before either of us talked or listened again.

Today I practice talking less and listening more and without judgement.

Because he has so much to say, and I have so much to learn.

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