Picture the scene…I am in an American military wife, living in Germany. Less than 24 hours ago, I gave birth to my first baby in a German hospital—while my husband is deployed in Iraq. Holding my new son is amazing, but bittersweet because I am unable to share these incredible moments with his father. In fact, my attempts to get word to him that he even has a son have been unsuccessful.
As I recline in the hospital bed, sipping on my room temperature carbonated water, I feel at once relieved, joyful, anxious, weary, lonely, and generally overwhelmed. This is my condition when the obstetrics doctor on duty enters the room and begins firing questions at me in German.
Now, I took conversational German classes. I learned how to ask directions, order food, make purchases, and greet people. But I did not learn anything having to do with biology or medicine. I can barely understand the good doctor, much less answer him. I freeze and stare at him helplessly. A kind nurse intervenes and informs the doctor that I do not speak German.
“How long have you been in Germany?” he barks in English.
“About two years.”
“And you don’t speak German? Why not? Do you think everyone in the world should learn English?!”
I felt cornered and vulnerable. He just sighed a huffy, frustrated sigh, shot a couple questions at me in English, performed a quick exam, and stomped out of the room.
Wow! Clearly this issue was something he was already passionate about—a pet peeve, if you will. Maybe his frustration was totally valid. Perhaps I should have been more proactive about immersing myself in the German language. Maybe I was an arrogant American who had too little appreciation for the country I was living in. But I was in a foreign country, my husband was away at war, and I had just had a baby! The doctor could hardly have picked a less appropriate time or place for his little cathartic outburst. Come on, buddy…get a blog or something!
I wish I could say that I never let my own pet topics make me an imperceptive jerk, but alas, I cannot. I am given to assuming that my latest life-altering discovery is what every one else has also been lacking. I tend to think that the error or injustice I am frustrated with is the catalyst for or somehow related to all ills everywhere. I become eager, greedy to have an excuse to bring my pet topics into conversation. Unfortunately, this makes me blind.
It’s hard to see people when what I’m really looking for is an opportunity to voice my wisdom or my complaint. Even if I am right, I stand to frustrate, alienate, or bore others to death, if I am not sensitive about who I share what with—and when.
That doctor in Germany was a jerk. However, he has given me a vivid illustration of what can happen when I get too hung up on a pet topic. His lack of restraint should remind me to ask myself a few questions before I speak.
Is this really what these people need to hear or am I just running everything through the filter of what’s been on my mind lately? Will it help or fix anything, or edify anyone if I say this right now or am I just eager for a soap box? Is my zeal for this topic blinding me to other people’s feelings or needs?
I think I tend to do this with issues of theology or relationships. Some people do it with politics or current events.
Anyone else have pet topics they have a hard time saving for the right time or place…or for someone who cares? 🙂