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The Art of Speaking and Listening Imperfectly

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The Art of Speaking and Listening Imperfectly

This article is for information only and doesn’t call for any action.


I discussed the nature of our politically correct culture in terms of stereotypes with my dearest friend John. John told me that I come really close to saying that “at the heart of the political correctness movement is the desire to squash stereotypes”. John actually said it better than I ever could.

Those who oppose the PC movement might sound something like Johnnie Cochran in the O.J. Simpson murder trial: “If it [the glove] don’t fit, you must acquit.” So the argument of the anti-PC contingency is: If a stereotype fits, use it.

Fortunately, the world is neither dark nor light. Life is revealed in the gray. This is not the “off the rack” world: One size doesn’t fit all. Everyone’s different. Everyone’s imperfect. Everyone has something to say. That’s the inherent beauty of human being.

We should all be allowed to speak imperfectly, when we come from a good place, from a good heart. Unfortunately, for better or worse, the greater fear that dominates this era of political correctness is: “If I don’t express myself perfectly, now I’m in trouble!” WTF?

To be perfectly clear, we’re all imperfect. We’re all flawed. Remember Christ said, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone…” Yet, can we say whatever the fuck comes to mind? No.

In our discussion, John eloquently said that if people truly thought before they spoke or tweeted, and that they checked within that what they say comes from the desire of helping others become greater than, “the world would be a better place, for sure”. Amen, Brother John. He also acknowledged, “We are very far from such a world.” Yep, we witness evidence of this all the time.

We all have something to say from within us that people want to hear. Speaking albeit imperfectly at times is just part of the bigger picture. For there to be a useful conversation there must be useful listening, albeit imperfect. When I speak imperfectly, I must be not only mindful of where it comes from, but be present to the listening I speak into. I must have compassion for both the listening and my audience to whom I speak, albeit imperfectly.

“Good Morning America” host Michael Strahan interviewed actor-comedian Kevin Hart about the controversy regarding his not hosting this year’s Academy Awards Show. That was the gig Kevin had dreamed of since he was a kid.

Soon after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Kevin Hart would host this year’s award show, old videos of his standup routine and tweets from 2008 emerged on social media. Kevin’s old material and tweets were homophobic. No doubt. Granted Kevin was the victim of media trolls. Yet, Kevin dismissed the posts.

Kevin posted on social media saying that had already apologized for what he said in the past. He was not going to further apologize. Consequently, Kevin experienced the horrific social media backlash. The Academy withdrew their invitation for Kevin to Host the 91st annual awards show.

Kevin’s perceived apparent callousness or insensitivity might severely affect his movie star career and his box office appeal. This may cost him millions of dollars. The cost to his brand could be even more detrimental.

Kevin told Michael on “Good Morning America”, “I’m over it.” No, he won’t host the Academy Awards. He’s moving on. But where? He told Michael, “I have a good energy.” He said, “I’m a good person.” He said that he’s done with trying to change what others think. I believe Kevin is missing the point.

Michael graciously imparted to Kevin that people might want to hear is that he is sincerely sorry for what he said in the past, and that he’s grown and learned from his mistakes. People might want to know that Kevin is now the greater man for this experience. However, Kevin ignored Michael invitation for asking for forgiveness.

Instead, Kevin pretty much dug is own grave in his obstinance. Michael gets the listening of Kevin’s audience. Obviously, Kevin did not. He will have to live with the consequences. Perhaps, he will listen someday and clean up his mess. We can only hope.

I spoke and listened from Kevin’s space when I first began working with my therapist Lance. I could not—I would not—forgive myself for occurring as weaker and unable to contribute meaningfully in my physical and emotional decline. I had been able to make a difference in the past, but because of depression and my perceived circumstance, I could no longer do so. I was “useless”. I was “no good”. I was “just taking up space”.

At my very lowest point I watched my favorite movie “The Edge of Seventeen”, for the second time at the theater on Thanksgiving Day. In “The Edge of Seventeen” Hailee Steinfeld plays self-loathing smarter than thou 17-year-old Nadine. In one scene with her friend Nadine cries, “I’m going to have to spend the rest of my life, with myself.” That landed profoundly for me.

I got it: I really have to be kinder to me. I really have to start to love me. I was finally speaking and listening to myself- imperfectly as that may be.

I started to listen to the people like Sensei, Mom, and Lance, who believed in me. They believed that I could still make a difference. I consciously stopped saying, “I suck.” I began saying, “Maybe, I can.” It was okay that I have suffered. It’s okay that I’m imperfect. It was also okay to speak imperfectly if my purpose was to make a difference in some small way.

So like Michael Strahan, I have nothing but mad love for Kevin. And I would say to him: “It’s okay to get over it. It’s far greater to get over yourself. And I would know.”

We all suffer. We all go through adversity. Yet, we still must be mindful of the listening we speak into, of those listening to us. I can create myself in listening mindfully, as imperfect as that can be. We can forgive a whole lot. We can also forgive ourselves in our compassion for others and ourselves.

Listening creates our speaking. Our speaking, imperfect as that can be, creates us. So the Art of Speaking and Listening imperfectly creates life.

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January 13, 2019 at 01:37AM

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