Speak from the heart

Part 2 of 10 in the series Virtues

One of the lesser known virtues cannot be expressed in a single word. It is a concept which, if applied, means that little is spoken, and when it is, it is spoken with concern for the listener.

“The heart is a sanctuary at the center of which there is a little space wherein the Great Spirit dwells, and this is the Eye. This is the Eye of the Great Spirit by which He sees all things, and through which we see Him. If the heart is not pure, the Great Spirit cannot be seen.”
Black Elk

Parker J Palmer is one of many who make the call for heart-felt speech, and it involves inviting the listener to go deep, by asking kind, thoughtful questions. Parker calls them “open, honest questions” without any inference of trying to change the listener, or impose your own ideas.

Here are some of his guidelines:

  • Speak your truth in ways that respect other people’s truth. Our views of reality may differ, but speaking one’s truth in a circle of trust does not mean interpreting, correcting or debating what others say. Speak from your center to the center of the circle, using “I” statements, trusting people to do their own sifting and winnowing.
  • Attend to your own inner teacher. We learn from others, of course. But as we explore poems, stories, questions and silence in a circle of trust, we have a special opportunity to learn from within. So pay close attention to your own reactions and responses, to your most important teacher.
  • When the going gets rough, turn to wonder. Turn from reaction and judgment to wonder and compassionate inquiry. Ask yourself, “I wonder why they feel/think this way?” or “I wonder what my reaction teaches me about myself?” Set aside judgment to listen to others—and to yourself—more deeply.
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions. Do not respond with counsel or corrections. Using honest, open questions helps us “hear each other into deeper speech.”
  • No fixing, saving, advising or correcting each other. This is one of the hardest guidelines for those of us who like to “help.” But it is vital to welcoming the soul, to making space for the inner teacher.
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