2 minutes reading time (401 words)

The art of not interrupting

We're all pretty good at interrupting. Some have it down to a fine art - though maybe "fine" isn't quite the word for the kind of display of full force interrupting we saw from President Trump in the first debate with Joe Biden last month. "Steamrollering" is more like it. 

And when Biden finally lost patience and shouted "Will you shut up, man?", apart from a millions-strong collective roar of approval ("He just said what I've been longing to say for so long..."), perhaps there was a moment of recognition, for some of us, that we have wanted to say this not only to loud-mouthed politicians, but to so many other, lower-level interrupters whom we have resentfully tolerated in our lives. And further, that there might just be a few people who have longed to tell us to shut up...

Sometimes, in meetings, it's a good thing - especially when the subject for discussion is an emotive one - to insist that, at least first time around, everyone present has a chance to speak uninterrupted. Apart from anything else, doing this reminds us how unusual it is for this to happen, how normal it is for us to interrupt. And then, we realise the power, the freedom, of not being interrupted - and how different it feels to listen when we are not waiting impatiently to say our bit.

To interrupt is to say, in effect: I'm not as interested in your words as I am in mine, I'm not as interested in you as I am in me. While there might be good reason for me to take this attitude (at least in my own mind), and while it might simply be true (and to be admitted in rueful honesty) that I find myself more interesting than others, when I interrupt I'm missing out, big time. I'm missing the full delight of the unexpected person opposite me, and the unexpected things they say. I'm missing the chance to connect more fully with our common humanity, and to relish more fully our differences. I'm missing the possibility that God, the living God, might be presenting himself to me in the words of that other, ordinary, easily interruptable person. And, in the rush to assert myself, I'm missing the soul-deepening invitation to wait - to wait and see what happens, to let life and conversation open themselves out, to let God create.

Joy for ever - a sermon for All Saints and All Sou...
 

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