Today I was in a meeting where I needed someone a couple levels higher on the food chain from me to dive a little deeper into the weeds and understand some more complex design decisions. I was not, however, asking this person to go deep into the technical details or even to understand the concepts at the level which I can regurgitate it back to the engineering team.
On paper he and I are in the same job family. We should have very similar skills sets. And while he spends more of his time on big picture things and it may be an act of exercising tight muscles, he should be able to come down a few levels in terms of detail and participate. I believe this person can. But he doesn’t.
After digging into some details…about 6 pages of details…he asked “Is there anyway you can summarize all of this in 2 to 3 sentences?”
I swear to the dear lord baby Jesus, I nearly had to leave the room.
And then as I breathed my two breaths to give myself time to think, it dawned on me…this is the limitation of language and time and space that so many of us deal with in religion, spirituality, doing our personal work, etc. If you are a person who is awake and on a spiritual path, you will find that often you talk to someone and they nod their heads a lot and smile, but you know they don’t have a clue what you are talking about and kind of think you are stupid or crazy. Other times you talk to a person and they immediately misunderstand you and start off down their own spiritual trail that you are not sure how to follow (or if you want to). And there are other times when a person knows what you are saying…has done some of this work before or started to…and then dismisses you with a “Oh yes yes…I thought that too when I used to believe those things, but now I’ve learned more than that.”
What if we all just took a breath for a second and gave each other some space to be in different places on the journey. If you are deeply enlightened and think others aren’t quite keeping up…well…okay. If you have no interest and find that when others talk about spirituality you want to scream…well…okay then. If you are deeply religious, attend service every time the doors are opened, and do not understand why some people would want to remain “lost”…well…okie dokie.
I’m not saying we don’t talk. I’m saying we take a breath.
We remember that some of us are in different lanes. We have conversations trying to bridge gaps. We do so without trying to force agreement. We build relationship in a way that enables us to continue the dialogue. Always leaving room for the dialogue.
See..despite wanting to leave the room in mere frustration today from the question posed to me…I didn’t leave. I sat still. I caught my breath. I shot my boss a look. And I proceeded to explain what level of summarization might make sense…maybe 2 to 3 sentences isn’t enough but certainly 8 pages is too much. I had a moment of grace where it occurred to me that it must be so troubling and intimidating to sit in a room full of people and watch several of them discuss details of a project that you don’t understand because you have responsibilities that keep you from that level of detail. And it also occurred to me that those of us working in the details have a level of camaraderie and friendship that does not translate to this person because they are removed from us as a group on a day to day basis. Our mere familiarity with the material (I am living and breathing this stuff daily) can create a gap in understanding, language, and progress that is hard to bridge with a single dissuasion or a simple document.
Grace says…”Let me see if I can explain it another way.”
Grace says…”That’s a good question. Let me answer that with this explanation…”
Grace asks…”What can I do to better understand what you are asking or where you are coming from?”
Grace asks…”What do you need from me to feel caught up, included, part of, welcome, etc.?”
Grace asks this in the conference room. Grace asks this at the dinner table when a child, in their innocence asks a question that reminds us just how young/naive/innocent they really are. Grace asks at the communion table and makes room for travelers at different points on their journey to Christ to talk about where they are without being condescended to but instead by being heard, loved, and welcome. Grace asks this at all seasons…in all walks off life…with diverse groups of people…and at various points in time.
I am so very grateful for the people who tolerate my ignorance, naiveté, and lack of language in so many areas. And I am so very grateful for moments when I hush, listen, and try to answer questions rather than correct, lecture, or speak down to.
Grace is beautiful…humbling, difficult, and a grand teacher…but ever so beautiful. It is life-giving. It is bridge building. It makes room.
Grace takes an extra breath…always an extra breath.