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Thursday, October 18, 2012

An acquired taste

Have you ever acquired a taste for something - perhaps something you could not stand as a kid, but now seem to enjoy quite a bit?  I still have not acquired a taste for brussel sprouts, but I like just about every other vegetable.  There is just something about their pungency which I cannot say I enjoy.  Acquired taste usually refers to food or beverage, but it can refer to anything.  Do you know what it means to "acquire a taste"?  It means we have such frequent exposure to something so as to "acquire" its taste.  Sometimes we actually learn to appreciate these "tastes" simply by repeated exposure!

The good acquire a taste for helpful conversation; bullies push and shove their way through life.  (Proverbs 13:2 MSG)

If we can "acquire a taste" for some vegetable we might find offensive, or the ability to drink hot coffee once in a while instead of a steady intake of hot tea, isn't it possible we could "acquire a taste" for conversation which edifies and builds up?  In fact, given enough exposure to this type of conversation, we might just find ourselves "converting" - just as a tea drinker becomes a coffee drinker!  "Taste" is often a matter of exposure.  If we have a "light" exposure to something (once or twice), we might not develop any real connection with the object.  If we have "frequent" exposure, we sometimes become so familiar with the taste we can even begin to sense it with our other senses!

Some of us determine to "try" something once or twice, decide we don't like the "taste" of it, and move on.  If this is the way we find ourselves experimenting with solid, wholesome, and deeply enriching conversations, we might never learn to engage in the types of conversations where we become vulnerable with another person.  In fact, we will likely only want the "casual" taste of the conversations which only "scratch the surface", but never really expose the heart.

The reason most of us struggle with vulnerability in conversation is the fear of being hurt.  We fear anyone being "critical" of our choices, dreams, or insecurities.  So, we hold people at arm's length, avoiding the frequent "tastes" of truth.  The rub comes in never acquiring a taste for the helpfulness of true intimacy.  Not the sexual kind of intimacy, but the kind which comes when two people really "get" each other and begin to share some of the "real" stuff they hold deep within.

What is helpful conversation?  If we are supposed to acquire a taste for it, wouldn't it be best to understand what it is?  I think one of the cardinal earmarks of this type of conversation is it being built on trust.  There is a foundation to it.  It is not just casual sharing of this fact or that, but a real intention to listening to the other, holding confidences when things are shared which might have only been shared with you, and then building upon these experiences through frequent exposure (frequent tastes) to deeper and deeper conversations.

When we begin to share our heart, we are quite guarded at first, right?  Just like the tea drinker who takes the first sip of coffee - we might not like it!  It just isn't "natural" to us.  I guarantee you, the first sip of tea was no better, but because it was what you had frequent exposure to, you developed a taste for it!  Heart-revealing conversation can be "bitter" when we first try it.  We just don't get any "warm and fuzzy" kind of feeling with it.  I guarantee you - do it often enough and you will become addicted to it!

Some thoughts on helpful conversation:

- It is truthful.  If we are going to actually be of any assistance to each other in our sharing in conversation, it begins with sharing what is true.  Truth is the basis of trust - not being truthful will never allow the foundation of trust to be laid in a relationship.

- It is not critical.  If we are always trying to find fault, or pass judgment with a harsh severity, we will likely not find too many people who will want to open up in truthful conversation with us.  In fact, we will find it hard to have anyone WE can open up to in truthful conversation because they will fear being truthful with us will only result in more critical exchange!

- It is acquired through exposure.  We do not just wake up one day determining to have a helpful conversation!  In fact, it is the exposure to another individual for a period of time which brings us to the place of being willing to "open up".  We cannot be wall-flowers forever, and then one day we just expect someone to be there when we need to engage in "helpful conversation" in our lives!  We need to spend time together with others - getting frequent exposure to sharing the little things - and then when the bigger things come, it is made easier by the time we have invested along the way.

I don't know about you, but these types of conversations are the hardest to have, but the most rewarding to have had!  Just sayin!