Attentive or Distracted

Attentive or Distracted“Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.” –St. Augustine

Dad, are you listening to me? Honey, we talked about this yesterday, don’t you remember? Bob, you said you would pick up the kids after school. They waited for over an hour, why can you do this one simple thing?

Attentiveness has really taken a hit in this fast paced, time-famine world we live in. There is always something else going on in our minds. Our smart phones are constantly ringing, beeping and buzzing with the latest call, text message or email. We just can’t seem to catch up or catch a break. We lose the present worrying about the past and anticipating the future.

Debbie makes her way through the grocery store with three kids, all under five, in tow. The youngest is in tears dropping her pooh bear over the side of the cart to the floor. The five year old wanders off to check out the cookie aisle. But Deb is tethered to her smart phone, planning a party for her sorority sister, while her kids are begging for her attention.

Bill has finally gotten a night off to spend at home with his kids. They are eager to share with their dad their stories of soccer games and cheerleading competition. But Bill’s mind is a million miles away. He is worried about the big presentation he has to make in the morning. He half listens and later can’t remember a thing they shared. The next day during the presentation, Bill feels guilty for not being more mindful of them.

Brad and Sue have been married for two years. Sue can’t wait until Brad gets home from work to share the good news about the promotion she got at work. Brad walks in the house, barely acknowledging her, and making no eye contact, grabs a beer from the refrigerator and plops down in his easy chair. Brad’s only concern is the rumor that his company might be laying off workers and he would be one of them. He misses the opportunity to share in her joy and have her console him in his fears. Brad and Sue are heading for divorce.

“Therefore, we must attend all the more to what we have heard, so that we may not be carried away.” –Hebrews 2:1

No one would disagree that living in the moment, mindfulness, and being more attentive to the present sounds wonderful, in theory. But doing it, that’s another thing!

How can we be “all-in” for our spouse, kids, friends and coworkers? How can put aside the problem from yesterday or become anxious about tomorrow and be mindful and more attentive to what is happening right now?

Here are a few things we can try;

  1. Remove the distractions. When you get home from work remove the smart phone and your car keys from your pocket and put them away. I place my keys on the counter and plug my smart phone into the charger. I consider it a success when I don’t touch it again until I leave for work in the morning.
  2. Quit multi-tasking and do one thing at a time. Many people would say that’s impossible, but research indicated that when you are shopping, watching your three kids and talking on your smart phone, you will do none of the tasks well.

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” –Albert Einstein

  1. Make eye contact and listen. Your spouse and kids know when you are paying attention. You stop what you are doing, make eye contact and listen. Kids want dad to look them in the eyes and be truly happy for their accomplishments.
  2. Ask questions. If you are not getting the whole story or are having trouble following, ask questions, get clarifications. If you do this, you won’t be in the big presentations wondering what your kids said to you the night before.
  3. Start with their life before yours. You have things to share as well. But, make it a habit of listening to stories about your spouse or children’s day before sharing yours. Brad would have been able to celebrate Sue’s promotion today by not fixating on the anxiety of what might happen at his tomorrow. By starting with her first, she would have the opportunity not only to share her good news but be attentive to his situation.

Want a balanced, happy and fulfilling life? Then, practice attentiveness. Be mindful of what is happening right now, with your spouse, kids, and friends. And, let’s try to be more attentive to what the Lord is asking of us. Let’s clear away the distractions and listen. God is speaking to us, if we were just more attentive.

God bless you, my friend.

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