Posted by: alliehope | February 22, 2008

Queen Bee-ism: Buzz Off!

Hmm. How does one respond when one’s back is against the wall? If one is Hillary Clinton, one’s claws come out, attacking anything her opponent says, while saying very little of substance herself. She said last night, parodying Barack Obama‘s “Change We Can Believe In” tagline, “Change we can xerox”, implying that the Senator is short on both originality and substance.

I can’t help but wonder, with the nature of such vituperative attacks over the last few weeks, what is she trying to prove? That she’s the biggest bully in the sandbox? Her much-ballyhooed boo-hoo in New Hampshire, what was thought to be the turning point in her campaign, what rendered her “more human”? I happen to think that it was nothing more than crocodile tears, done to play to the sympathies of the American public.

I realize by now that I might be being a little bit bitchy here. (Did I just use that word? Ooops.) However, I can’t help but wonder, Does she really think that such low-blow attacking will really help her? Odds are, it won’t, since it says more about who she is as a person than what she wants to accomplish, should she be elected President.

In the interest of fairness, however, I should note that I’m for Obama. I believe that he really does have the interests of the American people at heart, on the most important issues: health insurance, education, job security, all of that. I’ve waded through all the rhetoric on all sides and I came to that conclusion several months ago.

Having said that, I believe there’s a deeper issue at play here, one that is at play in the heart of every person who ever lived: the issue of using language to harm, or to heal. One needs only to hang around in one’s own living room to realize just how powerful words really are. As a writer, I’m well aware that words can be weapons, and they can also be instruments of grace.

James knew that as well. He understood something that I often struggle with: that one’s words are often a symptom of an underlying disease, that of sin. The diagnosis: the patient can be saved, but not without radical treatment.

I once read somewhere that the Desert Fathers and other monks would walk around with pebbles in their mouths to practice the art of silence. This is the kind of treatment I’d prescribe: silence, and if not silence, going through one day speaking as few words as possible. It seems odd to say that, but I’ve tried it, and I know that it’s really hard! However, it’s really worth it, since it exposes how easily I can use words to manipulate, to harm, to humiliate others, sometimes without even realizing it. Lord have mercy.

And in the silence, I find something else: the joy of listening to what the other person has to say, without constantly trying to race ahead of them or show them up. This, I believe, is the antidote to Queen Bee-ism, since in silence, I recognize that life really isn’t about me anyway, unlike a queen bee, who thinks life revolves around her (good old-fashioned narcissism there).

So, no matter what my political opinions or anything else, the bottom line is that listening is more important than speaking. Listening is an act of compassion when done unconditionally, without regard to my own agenda. It is a gift I can give without regard to who the person is, or what other support they might ask for from me. I find that as I really listen to him or her, the queen bee comes down from the throne, and I come away blessed, since even a person who comes to me for support has a gift they can give as well.

The trick is to remain open, the opposite of the queen bee, who works the angles to try to make herself the center of attention, and get what she wants. This is a lesson that I resisted learning for many years, and the consequences of that remain with me to this day. However, I also know that I’m still young, and have (God willing) years ahead of me to give what I now know. And even if I don’t, I have today, and today is all that matters. If I can listen well today, to at least one person, that will make a difference.

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