A recent post by David, at Red Letter Believers [http://redletterbelievers.blogspot.com/] (January 26, 2011 post) wonders why “Everyone wants to talk about the weather, but no one wants to talk about life.”
Why do we talk about the weather instead of talking about life?
Maybe because the weather is a “safe”, neutral subject. We probably won’t have anyone get mad at us, tell us we’re stupid or wrong, when we discuss the weather. It’s a safe way to have a brief and sociable connection with other people, to not just have to stand dumbly, or pass each other by trapped in our own worlds, not even acknowledging the existence of others.
“How are you?” A rhetorical question when people meet casually. It demands a set answer: “I’m fine.” This is a bridge to begin a casual conversation. From there, the dialog can move on. But it only moves on if the persons play by the rules of casual conversation. If a person answers that they’re not fine, inquirers may get a look on their faces, showing that they didn’t want “a real answer”. They just wanted to follow the acceptable social introduction. And then be free get on with the day’s agenda, without being deeply involved with the moods or fears or feelings or thoughts of others.
Many of us have learned that it’s not safe to talk about our lives. We’re told our politics are all wrong. So are our ideas, our thoughts. Maybe we’re too fanatical about our religion. Or too intense when confronted with attitudes or lifestyles we dislike. Or maybe, if we were “real,” if we shared what we were really thinking and going through, the other person would have to take some responsibility for acknowledging our “individuality,” our personhood.
Sometimes there can be hurtful results if we talk about our lives – to unsympathetic people. We never know when others will resent having to deal with issues they hadn’t bargained for. They might not want to hear an “organ recital” about our health, or a tale of woe about joblessness, wrong relationships, or depression. (And some people do wallow so much on the negatives of life that others don’t know how to respond to them.)
Some of us learn quickly that it’s not okay for us to admit we’re “not okay” – for such admission often makes others uncomfortable. (How sad!) And then there’s the other side. Some DO discuss life, but the topics are toxic (bad politics, faulty government, failed relationships, stupid people, the faults in others’ religions, the way their neighbors ought to act). In that case, their anger and bitterness may rip at us.
I think we all need wisdom in how to be good listeners without getting too many of our own buttons pushed. We all need to interact at some level with other persons. But we also have our own lives to live, problems and fears and discouragements. We need the privilege of expressing ourselves as we “really feel”. On the other hand, we don’t need to over-burden those who might have the capacity to show us caring, or to be enriched in their own lives by being compassionate to us. Like most of the rest of the daily duties and getting on with our days, “talking about life” can be stressful, can be a bombshell, or it can be a healing. It depends on the attitude and response of others.
Many would probably “talk about life” if such a discussion were more acceptable. But many of us also need the stamina not to be upset by those who are babbling brooks of words that don’t touch on (what to us, are) important matters.
A pastor wrote recently of his congregation, during their fellowship time after the service, talking about what Christ was doing in their lives today. I would like to participate in something like that. But I’ve never seen that happen, sadly. It appears that many people can leave a stirring, thoughtful worship service or a meeting meant to point out Christ being the answer to deep human needs – and instantly dissolve into chatter about finding a beauty parlor, getting, new shoes, or a list of favorite restaurants. Not that such talk is always “taboo,” but rather, that when some of us leave Christian meetings, we would like the privilege of meditating on, or sharing about our encounters with Jesus Christ.
Do we leave Christ at the door when we bid goodbye after church? Do we leave Christ on the doorstoop after we finish our morning devotional time? And, those of us who don’t want to leave Christ behind -- are we being enabled to talk about him and about us? Are we finding “strength and help in time of need”?
Lisa Copen, founder of Rest Ministries, an internet site dedicated to the needs of those with chronic health problems, shared in a recent video about the consequences of her diminishing health. The medications she takes have difficult-to-live-with side effects. She hurts too much. Life isn’t “fun”, or easy. She admits she feels frightened and overwhelmed. She shows her distress and her tears, the frustration of not knowing what to do. She has so many regrets about not being able to “do” what she believes she ought to be doing.
Since I have some chronic health issues of my own, I could relate to what Lisa said. How glad I was that none of the commenters to her blog post blasted her. Each comment encouraged and built her up, exhorting her to look to Jesus Christ the Comforter. Many other participants told their own stories of growing discouraged over their lives. So yes, when there’s a safe place from which to share, at least some people DO “talk about life”. I hope their honesty and vulnerability will let those whose lives seem more simple, to think deeply about all the human needs in this world today.
Perhaps God has me, or you, or someone close to us, to pray today, or listen today, or give of our time, attention, money, or empathy. May we all learn to be aware of the undercurrents in other people’s lives. Perhaps some of us need the lesson reinforced that even when we “can’t do anything more,” it’s safe to entrust ourselves into the arms of the loving Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.
See Lisa’s video and blog at