When was the last time you had a conversation that mattered?
Hopefully the answer is a few hours ago or yesterday. However, if we sit and ponder, we may realize that 95% of our words and sentences are used to foster shallow relationships.
Small talk is only a “thing” because we are not a culture that allows people to be around each other and not talk. Also, small talk is a way to keep people from really getting to know you. It’s the absence of communication. The most annoying thing in conversation (with friends or anyone) is to share a thought/experience only to immediately hear about their experience. This interchange usually happens faster than light reflecting off a mirror. When we do this back and forth to each other are we really listening or are we just waiting for the end of their sentence, (like a reporter for the cue card) so we can “one-up” each other?
As you are reading this, maybe you are thinking “Well Joel, I don’t think this is me.” I certainly didn’t think it was ME either. However, as I paid attention to my tendencies in conversation I found that I was often either attempting to “one-up” or subtly looking for approval after “sharing” my stories/experiences/decisions. I put “sharing” in quotes because I wasn’t really sharing anything. I was marketing my words in an effort to inflate the perception that people have of me.
The most exposing thing to our insecurity is to notice how often we “defend” our actions. Why do we explain ourselves so often even when even when no one is questioning us? Are we THAT worried that people don’t see us for who we truly are? The funniest jokes told are those that are told with such conviction and clarity that after the punch line is given, no explanation is required.
I have lived the last four years with an internal conflict. For the most part, it has been private and most of the time it is not a huge deal. I spent six years of my life in college studying music and saxophone. When I graduated with my Master’s degree in 2013, I did not have the course of my life figured out. And while I feel like I pursued music for a reason, my career for the last four years have not reflected this.
When people ask me “So, what are you doing now?” My heart sinks and I tend to feel like the servant with one talent from the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). I always feel as if they had asked me “Why aren’t you doing music?” I become defensive and I get down on myself. All of this even in spite of being blessed where I am and knowing that God has led me to the places that I am and have been. My dream of doing music may be slightly wilted, but is far from dead. When I play with a jazz quartet I feel as alive as a world traveler. When I sing a song I’ve written, I feel like there is hope for my expression.
If you are afraid of small talk and questions that people ask you all the time, make a mental note and later ASK YOURSELF “Why is that?”
Maybe people are asking the questions that you are afraid to ask yourself.
Sometimes there are good reasons for why you are where you are. If not, then your life deserves more than a little introspection. I try now to worry less about where I am and instead make subtle changes in the way I live my life going forward. This way, one day, I will reach my goals. Along the way, do not worry about if other people understand your path (unless they are the kind of friend/family that would help you reach your destination .)
Let’s let our lives standalone without explanation. If we have to always “explain” our lives, then we aren’t truly living them.