There are several disciplines I've been wanting to implement into my life as of late. The greatest of these: actually starting the challenges and carrying them through. By blogging this out, however, it will mean that people will know I'm working on these practices and will hopefully ask me about them and help hold me accountable.
The first discipline I want to put into action has to do with cultural greetings. A few years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who was living in the same dorm as a student who had just moved to America from India.
"I've been trying to help him get accustomed to American culture," she said as we were pulling out our notebooks for Abnormal Psychology class.
"How so?" I asked her, genuinely interested in what was specifically different for him here and hard to adjust to.
"Well, like explaining to him that people shake hands here when you first meet. Or that when people ask 'How are you?' in America, they don't always want to actually know how you really are."
At first, I was taken aback. She was right. A lot of the time we really don't want to actually know how people are. How cold and selfish our American culture must seem.
Over the next few weeks, I became more and more aware of how often this exchange happens. It is especially apparent on a college campus. When in passing: 'Hi, how are you?' 'Good, headed to class, how are you?' 'Good!' End discussion and both continue on, hurrying off in separate directions. Now, as a disclaimer, I recognize that if you stopped to have a deep conversation about one's emotions with every passerby, you would never go to class, do homework, eat, sleep, or anything else.
However, I think it is possible to be intentional with your words and what you are asking and saying to those you greet. It has to be a combination of brotherly love, discernment, and deliberate intentionality. I once had a girl at college, someone I knew but not particularly well, come up to me in the hallway one day, and instead of saying hello-how-are-you, she flat out asked, "Are you stressed?" I don't know if it was the look on my face or my posture, but somehow she recognized that I was feeling something. I was really blessed by her words. By the fact that she taken the time to notice my expression and had asked me something so specific and pointed about what I was experiencing.
I want my words to be seasoned with salt. I don't want to just blab out chit chat unless I actually mean what I'm saying. The 'how-are-you's' of people who don't actually want to know how I am have begun to grate. Not that they have bad intentions; it's just the way of American culture at present. It's the worst when I hear the same question coming out of my own mouth in a rush before I even know what's happening. By the second word, I'm already picturing myself trying to grasp at and pull the words back in as the student or professor I just asked walks past me with a knowing look. They're aware that I don't actually want to know.
So here is the discipline. I want to think before I speak, genuinely ask people about specifics, and if I don't have several minutes to actually catch up and listen, I want to say something else. Greet them with hello. Or set a date for later (this would involve actually getting out calendars and both parties writing it down. Just yesterday I saw two girls in the cafeteria exchange smiles and waves from across several tables and then a Hey girl! We should get coffee sometime and catch up! AKA I just want to be polite and say something minimal to keep the good feelings between us. I'm committed but really, I'm not.)
This is going to be hard (I've developed these habits since I was little), but I think I can do it. If I ask you how you are, but then rush on, be patient with me and perhaps, lovingly remind and ask me if I actually want to know. I want to be present in my speech, love well, and truly claim purpose in the words that I say.