That unmistakable gesture of contempt

Image - tree with comical google-eyes

“You’ve GOT to be kidding me!”

I scolded someone I was having a conversation with on Sunday. We had gotten on the topic of the Huge Decision that’s looming at my church; I had made a comment that reflected what I understood to be some people’s concern about the possibility of having 150 children in the church five days a week after school. She rolled her eyes.

I said “Don’t you roll your eyes at me! That means you’re dismissing what I’m saying as unimportant!” She said “Well, that concern is going to be taken into account …” I said “You rolled your eyes! That means that when I said what I said, you instantly in your mind dismissed it as something you don’t need to listen to, hear, or pay attention to. You’re not taking it seriously. You’ve already written it off.” She said “There are lots of other ways to participate in the church besides the one you mentioned.” I said “You’re not listening! The one I mentioned is the most important one for me, the one I actually do participate in, the one that counts for me. You’re saying it doesn’t really matter. You might as well say I don’t really matter.”

To be honest, it wasn’t even my issue. It was someone else’s issue, that I just happened to have brought up. But my issue or not, I knew she wasn’t taking it seriously.

I knew it for a fact, because I have done it myself: there I am, “listening” to someone, and as they’re talking, I’m crossing their objections or points off the list of things to be taken seriously, one by one, in my mind, judging them, as stupid, trivial, insignificant, already dealt with, not something that really matters or is of the essence, whatever. When eye-rolling gets added in to the mix, it adds the element of contempt: “I can’t believe I’m hearing this! What a waste of time. What nonsense. Get back to me when your brain comes back from the dry cleaners.” If we are going to be in a “community” with other people, this attitude doesn’t work. The problem is … we have it; I have it.

“Truth in love,” I said; “Look me right in they eye as if you actually take what I’m saying seriously, “ I said; “I need you to actually hear what I’m saying, like you care about my experience, how I feel, what I go through,” I said; “or we are not going to survive this conversation.” And I want us to survive this conversation. I think we need to try.

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About HAT

Heather Thiessen (HAT) is a happily married 60-ish, Bible-reading, Presbyterian Church Sunday School teaching and choir singing, small fuel efficient car driving, still pretty much 2nd wave feminist and generally out lesbian Hoosier mom. (There are no monochrome states.) From time to time she teaches religious studies to students at a small liberal arts college in Louisville, Kentucky.
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