By Nadine Groen
I was born and raised in the Midwest, outside of Galesburg, Illinois. Living on a farm, my three sisters and I tried to help our father with chores and other farm work. Most of the time we were not very helpful. Once one of my sisters got a tractor going but couldn’t stop it and ran it through the other end of the barn. Another time I drove the tractor and a load of hay bales into a huge hole, upsetting the whole load. I could go on and on about those experiences, but my life really revolved around the church – youth group (Overcomers), youth rallies, summer camp (Hickory Grove Camp), and singing with my sisters. We were called the Flynn Sisters Trio. I had so many wonderful experiences with the Lord, sensing His presence in my life.
Oh my, I can’t believe how long I have been talking about myself. And that’s the topic I want to share with you: talking about ourselves. I have been in many group settings, and I am always amazed with the conversation. Most of us, including me, talk about OUR lives, OUR children, OUR grandchildren, OUR latest trip, and on and on it goes. The art of engaging others in conversation has been lost. I don’t think it is intentional, but it IS very self-absorbed. Several years ago, I was having lunch with a few friends. The entirety of the conversation was dominated by one individual talking about herself. I knew that one of the other gals in the group was trying to navigate a personal crisis and so much needed to talk. She went away from that lunch very disappointed. She also had a story to tell but had no opportunity to share.
I love the scripture in Philippians 2: 3-4 (NKJV): “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” That includes conversations. I wish someone would have told me how often I would have to guard against the tendency to talk about my own life. I can’t tell you how many times I have been disappointed by a one-sided conversation I have had – either one on one or in a group.
Here are some things I have learned to counter our tendency for one-sided conversations:
- We all have a tendency to talk about ourselves.
- Remember: the best conversation is one where everyone has a chance to share.
- As believers we are encouraged to think of others above ourselves.
- We should ask good, open-ended questions like How was your week? How are your children? What keeps you busy? How are your parents?
- Before you meet up with a friend, ask the Lord to help you to have listening ears and the right words, not so much about yourself, but rather words of encouragement for the one you are talking to.
This listening does not come naturally or easily to any of us. But it is the right thing to do. I am always astonished to find out wonderful new insights into people’s lives and am amazed at the opportunities I gain to encourage others.
About the Author
Nadine Groen served alongside her husband, Ken, in ministry as he pastored for many years and then served as the Central Region Executive Director for Open Bible Churches. Married for 55 years, Ken and Nadine are actively involved in Journey Church of the Open Bible in Urbandale, Iowa. They have two adult, married children and five grandchildren. Chris and his wife, Jessica, are the parents of triplets: Samantha, Aiden, and McKenna. Megan and her husband, Rob, are the parents of Hudson and Harper. Nadine loves being “Nana” and ministering through hospitality, which she often expresses by her cooking and baking.