I had a bad day recently. A really bad day. One of those days where everything seems to go wrong, all hope is lost, and everything I long for in my life seemed to be slipping through my fingers like sand.
It felt like I was drowning. Desperately trying to stay afloat. Doggie paddling my little heart out, and getting nowhere. I was tired, people! All the effort, all the striving and work, seemed to be having the opposite effect.
I had a need to feel understood. To feel heard. Like what I’m saying matters, and the people I’m saying it to genuinely want to hear, listen, and understand. That my voice is important. My needs are important. That I’m important.
Makes sense, right? We all want to be heard and understood. It feels good. We feel validated. Seen.
Here’s the thing, though.
If we demand to be heard, insist we are understood, it gets us nowhere. In fact, it gets us the exact opposite of what we want.
When we come from a place of demanding and insisting, the energy changes. Our voices tend to get louder. Our words become sharper. Soon we are yelling or stamping our feet like a toddler who wants. that. cookie. NOW!!!
Who wants to listen to that?
So, after my day from hell, when I realized that demanding I be heard and understood got me a big pile of steaming dog crap, I went to bed. Still grumbling in my righteous indignation.
I woke the next morning thinking about something I hadn’t thought of in a very long while. Like, for thirty years. When that happens, I try to pay attention.
I remembered a prayer that I used to sing at the Anglican church I went to as a kid. I didn’t like going to church. I was in full on teenage rebellion, so sitting my butt in a pew wasn’t high on the list of fun things to do. It was boring. The priests wore dresses and talked about stuff I didn’t understand.
But apparently something stuck, because thirty years later, bam! This prayer popped right back in my brain like it was yesterday. Every word, every note of the song.
I meditated on the prayer for the rest of the day, and the words sunk deep into my soul.
The prayer is called ‘Make Me A Channel of Your Peace,’ and it’s attributed to St. Francis of Assissi. Which is pretty cool, because I have a statue of the dude in my front yard.
We call him Frank. He likes hanging out in the garden. My dog likes to pee on him. We think Frank would probably be okay with that.
Anyways, here are the words of the prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
What really hit me hard was this: ‘grant that I may not seek….to be understood as to understand.”
Here I was, demanding my rights to be understood, and getting all fired up about not being heard. Feeling justified in my anger and indignation because I have a voice, dammit!
What if I gave that up? What if, like Frank says, I seek to understand first, instead of seeking to be understood?
And what if I loved, without asking for love in return? Forgiving, without knowing if I will be offered forgiveness? What if I just focused on giving, instead of receiving?
This is not new stuff. However, for me, right then and there, I knew that it was new wisdom I was receiving. Fresh insight. In the moment, up to date, newsflash of the day stuff.
Do you ever find yourself in this situation? You are trying so desperately to be heard, to prove your position, to be understood, that you spend an enormous amount of energy to do so? And maybe the other person is doing the same? Where does that get you? How much love and connection do you feel? Is your intimacy deepened? Or are you feeling seperate, disconnected, and distanced?
Demanding what we want never works.
Frank had it right. When we focus on giving, on offering our understanding, our love, our compassion, without any expectations, we are aligning with the Universe. Our spirits are open vessels for giving and receiving love. The more we can offer our hearts, our souls, our beings, to someone, the more we are capable of receiving. When we drop any expectation, or hold on to any rights we might think we deserve of getting these things, we stop striving. We can stop the endless doggie paddling of demanding and insisting. We can relax, and know that as we focus on the other person, and offer our love to them, much love will come back to us. It might not be in the moment (not everyone wants to listen all the time, right?), but things will change in our lives. As we show up with the energy of giving, we will get more than we ever imagined. People will start to come into your life who want to give to you. Who want to love you, understand you, listen to you, honour your voice.
So thanks, Frank, for your wisdom.
Why not give this prayer a try today? Send it out to whoever you pray to, then set an intention for your day, to will walk in a spirit of giving. Act in the opposite of what you encounter that you don’t like. If you encounter hatred, respond with love. If you bump up against doubt, counteract with faith. If there is despair hanging around, grab some joy and launch it like a missile.
Then notice what happens. In your world, but, more importantly, inside of you. Pay attention to what it feels like to act with intention in this way.
Let me know what this is like for you! Leave a comment and share your experience! I’d love to hear from you!
And below, for your listening pleasure, is the prayer of St. Francis as sung by the awesome Sarah McLachlan.