Audio length: 8:45 minutes
Transcript published: December 26, 2012
Fr. Stephen completes his series on the true and false self, with thoughts on how we can go about "speaking to the heart."
Today I want to complete this series where I’ve been looking at the true and the false self. My last podcast on the topic was about Evangelism and the Ego. And today, this podcast is about Speaking to the Heart. I can remember being told that “Talking to you is like talking to a fence post!” It wasn’t a pleasant thing to hear, but I can still hear the words. I don’t remember who said them, but I heard them some time in my teenage years. “Talking to you is like talking to a fence post!”
The occasion was doubtless some sort of argument. There were many things to argue about: love, peace, war, Jesus, drugs, sex, rock-n-roll. There was a great deal of talk and almost no conversation. But why was the experience of talking to someone similar to speaking to a block of wood?
The simple answer is, “No one is at home.”
When the ego, that is the false self generated by our anxieties, fears, grandiosity, becomes our public voice, the true self is rendered mute. Conversations with the ego are pretty much almost useless. Conversations with the ego also tend to provoke responses from the ego – “like calls to like.” Thus one set of defenses speaks to another set of aggressions, switching places as the war of words waxes and wanes. No information is exchanged. No minds are changed. The heart remains inert, shielded in a fog of make-believe.
We are often struck by the relatively short statements of Christ. He’ll say, “Follow me,” and a man leaves his fishing nets and becomes a disciple. I have often wondered if the gospels simply give us a brief summary of a longer conversation. But as years have worn on, I think they’ve pretty much given us the account as it is. One of the longest conversations recorded in the gospels takes place between Christ and the woman at the well in John 4. Every word of Christ is addressed to the heart. The woman initially responds from the ego.
Jesus says, “Give Me a drink.”
She responds (defensively), “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?”
Jesus speaks again to her heart, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Jesus continues and speaks about living water.
Her first response from the heart says, “Sir, give me this water.”
Christ goes deeper into her heart, and after this initial, “Sir, give me this water,” He says “Go, call your husband, and come here.” Probably the word husband is the key word in the phrase.
Her response, “I have no husband.” It’s a confession, spoken from the depths of her heart. There is no explanation, no prevarication, no excuse. In the final moments of the conversation the ego offers a last defense – one last argument of Samaritans versus Jews.
Christ responds with the word of the coming Messiah, and reveals Himself to her. In the coming of the Christ, all space between Jew and Samaritan is bridged. The one common hope of the heart destroys the imagined pain of the false self. The words of Christ, spoken consistently to the heart, reveal a woman whose life is a story of broken relationships She’s had five husbands and now a live-in friend. But it reveals her, this conversation, finally to be a saint. The woman at the well, known to the Church as St. Photini, later dies a martyr’s death, having drunk to the full the living water that was given her that day by Christ.
Our own conversations, both when speaking and when listening, do well to be grounded in the heart. And so, I offer today just some short suggestions, some tools to help us remain in the heart; to speak from the heart; to hear from the heart. So here they are and with each suggestion, a Scripture you could look to to think about what it means.
Use fewer words. Be silent if possible. (Ecclesiastes 3:3)
Only speak the truth, though it is not necessary to be unkind when we do. (Ephesians 4:15)
Resist the effort to defend yourself. (Matthew 10:19) When we defend ourselves to others, we’re oftentimes not concerned about the thought, but concerned about ourselves and how we may look. So resist the effort to defend yourself.
It is not important to be right. (Proverbs 26:21)
Do not argue. Your effect on someone else’s ego will come to nothing. (Hosea 4:4)
Tell your anxieties that everything will be okay. (Philippians 4:6) When we’re feeling anxious and feel the need to speak, simply tell your anxieties that everything will be okay.
Don’t be in a hurry to speak. Let someone else finish their thought. (Proverbs 29:20)
Breathe. I don’t have a verse but one does come to mind from Genesis. The first act that God does after forming us from the clay is He breathes into us. Breathing can be an act of receiving God, so breathe. The rest will come a lot easier.
Those who know me will understand the irony of my advice, especially advice on speaking less. Of those who sin against speech, I certainly must be the first. Glory to God.