In thinking about the time I spent as a local-church pastor there are many things I regret doing, or failing to do, but two stand out the most in my memory right now. One is that I could tend to exaggerate (whether with sarcasm or humor), and the other is that I spent too much time talking and not enough time listening. And, actually, there were probably three: I wish I had not used email near as much.
I'm sure I exaggerated feelings and things as a defense mechanism. I usually assumed (or hoped) that people who knew me well knew when I was exaggerating for dramatic effect and when I was not. You know, like laughing to keep from crying. I can remember friends asking how things were going and I might say, "Oh, you know, a little suicidal but I'm hanging in there." As I think about some of those things now, that was not very nice of me; or smart; or fair. There were probably times when well-meaning people were quite perplexed as to exactly how to deal with me. I'm sure it was way worse when in an email or text. Sarcastic humor can be a tricky thing. I wish now I had been more forthright in expressing my feelings and I hope I can be in the future.
Perhaps the worst thing I did was to talk too much and listen too little. Whether it was in person or in correspondence. I remember writing leeeeengthy emails to people. I was trying to really express myself and put my heart into it so they would understand where I was coming from, but as I think about it now, I bet people hated seeing that they had an email from me. I bet I could have salvaged several relationships if I'd just been more brief. It was the same with conversations. Rather than worrying about trying to fully express myself, I should have been more intently listening to others. I don't think I was obnoxiously arrogant, but I could often think I knew what was best for others - or even myself - and it would have been to everyone's benefit for me to really listen to people's hearts.
So, you know, if I ever had it to do over... or, actually, as I continue with my life... I want to learn how to economize my words. Much like a good writer. I would like to get better at expressing myself with fewer words, and at the same time be a better listener to those around me. And, by listening, I mean not only hearing the words people say, but noticing posture and demeanor and inflection and hearing what is coming from inside them. I think that would be good. Good for me, and good for everyone.
Well, I suppose I should stop there. I've used a lot of words to try to say I want to use fewer. :) Such is life...
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry," (James 1:19)
"All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37)