I am a teacher, the son of a pastor, the son of a Deacon, the son of a pastor.
We explain things in our family as matter of genetic demand. A quizzical look or even a momentary pause can induce “teacher mode.” There may be something good about this trait, but it often leads to stupidity. My poor mother and father often faced long explanations from me about ideas they had taught me.
I have quoted my Dad to my Dad by accident more times than I can count. Sadly, this tendency has been passed to my children. My children once explained to me “LOL means Laugh Out Loud.” This might have been less ludicrous if I was not the one who installed and maintained all the technology in the house, including chat programs.
Poor Hope, the most patient wife in Christendom, has had numerous romantic moments ruined by a tendency to explain. She is not anti-intellectual, but discussing Guelphs is not the only thing to do during a Florence sunset. Being unemotional and calm in an emotional moment may make for a fine Stoic, or Vulcan, but it is inhuman and dull.
In short, my tendency to explain everything makes John a dull boy.
The unimaginable tedium of all those explanations frightens me . . .however indulgent blogging is at least the reader can stop reading. Forcing the “beneficiary” of my LOL teaching to listen has no upside. There is no way around it: teachers can be bores.
What to do?
Hope has helped me some. She points out that she does not always tell me her “problems” in a quest for a solution. She likes solving her own problems . . . at least some of the time. She wants sympathy and a cheer, but she does not need the problem broken down and examined. She does not want me thinking inside or outside of any boxes, because she is sharing a life not packaging a problem.
I need to let some problems be problems. A man or woman has a right to their difficulties.
My father pointed out the joys of listening. “Do not,” he says, “always anticipate the question. Wait for it to be asked.” This is good manners, even if one is usually a good guesser. Being created in God’s image gives a man a right to ask. If God let Job ramble, when He knew the problem and the solution, I must let even my students pose their problem and not solve it too quickly.
There is value in getting to the point of being able to describe a problem. To encourage skipping that step is to make a person a permanent student of the Guru and not a peer.
And yet . . .my job and life often consist in teaching and problem solving. This is what people want from me . . . often. God help me not apply this good skill where it is not needed. We have all known emotionally stunted people who turn emotional problems into intellectual ones, because they are good at intellectual problems. Of course, there are folk with high Emotional Quotients, who turn intellectual difficulties into a discussion of feelings, because they have an advantage there.
“Teacher” or “Problem Solver” wants everything lesson planned so he, I, can thrive, but this is a false victory. When I solve Hope’s problems when she wanted a hug, then I have failed as surely as if I hug her when she wanted me to do something practical.
All of this requires treating people like people and not boxing their “needs” into prepackaged responses. After all perhaps I should just LOL at my foible and think more of others and less of what I am going to say about others.
(By the way: LOL can mean Laugh out Loud, but in some contexts does not.)