I have a friend named Ken who clearly falls into the rare category of “very close friend” – by that I mean he occupies a place in my heart which is not populated with very many other human beings. We are the same age (a tad over 70); we had small children who went to the same private Christian school; he took my oldest daughter on a trip with his daughter to London where the two teenage friends had a marvelous time; he came to my wedding; he came to my surprise birthday party; when I had cancer surgery he was there at the hospital; we meet regularly and discuss very deep things; we share issues facing us that we just do not speak of with people other than our wives; and we respect each other’s opinions on a wide variety of issues.
You see, and here’s the point, Ken and I could hardly be more different in so many ways. He is way to the left of me on almost every issue we discuss. In a recent airing of some differences between us he said, “Sometimes I feel like a loon when I get into these back and forth discussions with you Steven.” To which I said, “I have always loved Loons, they are probably my most favorite bird!” And get this: Ken recently retired as the CEO of an insurance company which defended doctors, and I am a trial lawyer who sues doctors – only when I detect egregious negligence which has seriously injured the patient. Ken hired me once to come speak to several hundred doctors on “How not to meet me in court!” Do you see what I mean? Ken and I could not be any further apart in so many ways. Yet we love each other with a sense often that we are “brothers from a different mother!” Many of us are sitting down today with family and extended family and friends, and we just may hear from the elder head of the table: “We don’t talk about that at the Christmas dinner table” followed by awkward silence for a few seconds, minutes, or hours!
I said all of the above, to say this: we live in such a divided world right now where the blue states hate the red states and where political parties spend untold sums of money in an effort to change the minds of those who do not believe in or follow the same party line; so is it any surprise that families and friends are divided also which can and does make for some very awkward holiday table discussions!
I confess that with many of my immediate family members (adult children, siblings, and aging parents of my wife) I purposely avoid discussing such topics. But not so with Ken. He and I go toe to toe with polar opposite views! When we hit on a really hard topic that does not bode well for either of us to “give in” to the other’s view, we respectfully leave the topic and move on to wish each other a wonderful day, often with a promise to pray for each other.
This is unique. Does not happen with anybody else in my world. Another friend and I had to stop being “friends” since he could not tolerate even listening to views and positions which were totally opposite of his views and positions. I wanted to have a “Ken” relationship with him but he walked away, unable to even speak with me about anything.
If you do not have some “Kens” in your life, please ask yourself these questions: “Why not?” Am I the one who is too loud and mean-spirited in conversations? Do I speak way more than I listen? While your friend is speaking am I composing my brilliant rebuttal instead of really listening? Can I say, Sometimes I Feel Like a Loon, and then see my friend as a gift from God whose opinions I dearly respect without criticism since, after all, the person speaking to me is important to me!
If the first six lines of The Merton Prayer do anything, they always help me with a reality check of just who I am, whose I am, where I am, where I think I am going, and how I just might be totally walking a wrong road! With that in mind, I am always open to hear Ken’s position on everything because, who knows, maybe, just maybe, this time, on this one topic, he might be right, and …maybe, just maybe, I might be wrong! Merry Christmas Ken, and thank you for being my very good friend!
Leave a comment, if you wish, regarding this post or how you found The Merton Prayer and why it is important to you. Thanks for visiting http://www.TheMertonPrayer.com!
2 thoughts on “Sometimes I Feel Like a Loon”
Hallelujah! It’s so liberating to have people like this in our lives! Your relationship with Ken is clearly built on mutual trust, respect, and love. And there are plenty of such relationships wherein people still can’t tolerate these hard conversations. I think the other necessary elements include self- awareness, self- regulation, and effective communication… and that means not just communication of ideas, but of the trust, respect, and love.
I wonder what’s leaking out of our cultural bucket, taking our mutual/ collective tolerance and connection with it? How can we plug the hole and refill with these six elements for deep connection?
Thank you for making me think and ask, and Merry Christmas!! 🙏🏼🌟
Thank you Catherine for your rich comment and challenge to any reading this blog! These six elements: mutual trust, respect, love, self-awareness, self-regulation, and effective communication; just might be built on successful looking deeply inward and regularly upward to God. The Merton Prayer so often leads me to see the Imago Dei in every human being which should always and only lead me to all six of your wonderful foci points! Thanks again for your comment! Blessed Christmas to you and joy for a new year!