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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.


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