Skip to main content

know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em


I have been playing poker quite a bit with my friends lately and one would think that I should be getting better at it, but sadly, too often I can be read like a book and so can my strategy and my cards.

I made some bad decisions this week. One of them was opening my mouth when I should have kept it shut. We all (at least I assume we all do) have this dialogue inside our heads that tries to figure out what is going on in our lives, or work through choices, or resolve issues, or explain feelings, or analyse situations, or think and plan ahead. This week, when someone asked what was going on with me, I proceeded to verbalise that internal dialogue and as soon as I did, I realised that it was the least helpful, gracious or appropriate thing I could have done.

A few years ago, I worked at a job with a meeting planning company whose controller was a no-nonsense, abrupt, and by reputation unpleasant at times, person to work for. She called me one day to ask me to extend my contract with the company, and I replied that I wasn't sure if this situation would work out for me longer term as I had moved and blah blah blah blah. I heard a bit of a "humph" at the other end of the line and she told me that she would expect my answer the next day and hung up. I realised that she was not interested in (nor had the time for) all the things I was thinking about regarding the situation - she just wanted a decision. Overinformation irritated her and wasted her time. I learned my lesson and in any further conversations with her, always got directly to the point and supplied only the information she asked for.

Here are a few guidelines I worked out this week as I learned another lesson about when to speak and when to be silent:

1. When the situation is not about me and should not become about me, I should not unload my thoughts or feelings or struggles and even if directly asked how I am doing, graciously keep the focus on the person or matter at hand.

2. When I am in the middle of working something out in my life, it is probably not a good time to talk indepth about my inconclusive struggles to anyone else (except a trusted confidant or counselor).

3. Very often when I am learning a life lesson, I will encounter someone else who is in much the same situation. If I wait for God to open up an opportunity to dialogue respectfully and openly about it, most times there is some measure of healing that comes out of it for both of us. However, when I am premature or force the conversation, it is unproductive and sometimes harmful.

4. Being a vulnerable and transparent person does not mean that everyone gets to see and hear everything I am thinking. It means I do not withhold myself from those that God places in my life, give myself fully to the situations and lessons he brings my way, and most of all be fully surrendered and available to him.

This photo was taken in South Africa during a round of poker.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…

job hunting

I am on the hunt for a job. PhD in hand, I am a theologian for hire. The thing is, not a lot of places are hiring theologians these days, and if they are, they are usually looking for scholars with skills and experience outside my area of expertise. Today I found job opportunities for those knowledgeable in Religion, Race, and Colonialism, Philosophy and History of Religion, Islam and Society, Languages of Late Antiquity, Religion, Ethics, and Politics, and an ad for a Molecular Genetic Pathologist. Not one posting for a Dramatic Theologian with  a side order of Spirituality and a dash of Methodology.

I know, I know. My expectations are a bit unrealistic if I believe I will find an exact match for my particular skills. I know that job descriptions are wish lists to some extent, so no candidate is ever a perfect match. I also realize that one must adapt one's skill set according to the requirements of the job and be flexible. But there are so few jobs which come within ten or even…

lessons from a theological memoir and a television series about lawyers

It's a hot Wednesday afternoon, so let's talk about false binaries. Basically, a false binary or false dichotomy happens when a person's options are artificially limited to two choices, thereby excluding all other possibilities. Insisting on the limited choice of either A or B leaves no room for middle ground or another, more creative solution. In other words, a false binary assumes the rest of the alphabet (after A and B) does not exist.

Binary thinking is quite prevalent in our society. Either you are for me or against me. Either you are guilty or innocent. Either you are a Democrat or a Republican, conservative or liberal. Either you are a Christian or a pagan. Either you are all in or all out. Admittedly, it is convenient to see things as either black or white, but we live in a multi-coloured world and not everything fits neatly into two categories. This is why insisting there are only two choices when, in fact, other options exist, is labeled as a fallacy in logic an…