Today I had lunch with a clergy friend. We had met last year on a work trip and talked easily about conference things and the ministry. I was going to be in his neck of the woods, so I figured I’d see if he was free, and he was, so we met up. As we talked, I asked lots of questions. He’s someone I respect and admire, so I was inclined to ask a variety of questions, both practical and philosophical.
If you could change 3 things in our conference, what would they be?
What do you think we should be telling the Bishop?
What goals do you have for yourself?
If you could re-do anything in your ministry, what would it be?
He answered many of the questions, wanted more time for others, and tried to avoid others. I didn’t think much of my questions, just wanted to know more from him. After awhile he indicated that the questions made him uneasy. He said multiple times that I was “intense.” Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear that, I am not exactly super excited for having received such a marvelous compliment. I take it to mean I am pushy, too direct, and too much. He began to ask if I was always this way (yeah, probably, I don’t have much interest in the superficial conversations, so yeah, I ask deep penetrating questions), and what my dating relationships are like (as in, men must run from your intensity—though, when I said that, he claimed that was not what he meant).
Now, I don’t ask “what are your life goals” in every conversation, nor “what are your regrets and what would you do differently if you had the chance?” But I do like to ask things that matter. I like to know people, and not just what their favorite color is.
When I was in seminary, I dated a man who called me intimidating. His reasoning for that statement was because I made constant, unrelenting eye contact. Sorry. I like eye contact. I want you to know I am listening and I want to watch/read your eyes as you talk.
Part of me wants to then water down the intensity and intimidation, but the other part of me says, “Tough. If you can’t deal with it, I’m sorry for you.”
I don’t generally think of myself as intense, so I lean toward the “tough” answer. But maybe I am. Maybe I do need to be a kinder gentler me.