March 15, 2023
A Note from Pastor Jon
Curiosity killed the cat? (But did it really?)
Growing up I remember when I found myself asking too many questions (never understood what that means) that the grownups started saying, “You know, Jon, curiosity killed the cat.”
It only took a few times of hearing that statement before becoming conditioned to stop asking questions out of my own curiosity. My curiosity was often stifled and discouraged.
As an Enneagram 9 (see image for a brief description), I can be a conflict avoider and a silent observer whom others may perceive as disinterested. Knowing that about my 46-year-old self, it’s easier for me to look back and see why I let my curiosity wane and how in some ways that alienated people.
A part of learning and growing is curiosity. I do believe that for the most part I was encouraged to be curious with some subjects. I wasn’t completely shut down all the time.
Asking Curious Questions
Part of asking curious questions, however, is learning to ask without sounding offensive, insulting, or disrespectful.
Over these last few years, as I have attempted to learn more about myself, it has become apparent that to learn more about myself, I also needed to learn more about others, particularly, those who are different from me. Those differences can be cultural, racial, socio-economic, religious, gender-based — anything you can imagine.
Unfortunately, because of my own self-reservation and fear of sounding insulting or disrespectful, I often refrained from questions and conversations. I had seen how folks could zero in on that one individual who was the minority of the gathering and bombard them and make them feel uncomfortable.
I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable — and since I want to avoid conflict, I can tend to assume everyone else does as well.
What I have learned, however, is that my suppressed curiosity has led me to be insulting and disrespectful in a passive sense.
I have had opportunities to attempt to understand the life or journey of another but didn’t ask.
I have had opportunities to enter into conversations about the experiences of others, but I stepped back or walked away.
While I did so not with any ill will or harm in mind, I have learned recently that my action or lack thereof gave room for the other individual to feel less than valued.
Love Your Enemy
In this Lenten season I have spent some time reflecting, and trust me when I say I am continuing to reflect on the words of Jesus to “love your enemy.”
Not everyone who is different or lives a different experience in life is an enemy, of course. Yet Oxford Languages tells us that a synonym for “enemy” is “the opposition,” with the root word “opposite.”
To be opposite is to be not alike.
Shifting Internal Curiosity to External Conversation
Over these last few months, I have been working to shift my internal curiosity into external conversation.
I will be honest, it has not been easy, and at times it’s been quite a bit uncomfortable. I’ve had uncomfortable feelings in the pit of my stomach as I anticipate conversations.
I want to celebrate, however, that I have practiced my curiosity more often lately.
I have worked to phrase my questions in ways that are less interrogative and more open, not framed in ways that could feel judgmental or confrontational.
Would you tell me what it was like where you grew up?
Would you share with me your favorite activities?
Are you willing to tell me about what makes you feel uncomfortable?
How can I help to make you feel more comfortable?
Engaging in these conversations and actively seeking out those who have opposite life experiences has helped me to become more empathetic, more aware, and more curious about the diverse life experiences of those in our community.
As Pastor April has shared these last few Sundays, God created us to be in community with one another, and not just in community with those who are exactly like us or close.
God has created us in our diversity to discover our gifts and how we can live together to elevate everyone in this life.
Friends, I believe that’s sharing God’s love and helping others to experience God’s love for them, no matter what.
While I was often reminded that curiosity killed the cat, I also remember the tall tale that a cat has nine lives. If your first attempt to utilize your curious spirit felt like you failed, I invite you to try again.
I’m always willing to talk about my life as a veteran, a father of LGBTQ children, a divorced man, a remarried man with a blended family, a pastor, and yes, even what it’s like to be a long-suffering fan of the Tennessee Volunteers.
Reach out to someone who’s different from you
I encourage you to reach out to me or to someone else whom you find different from yourself. Invite them to coffee, a walk in the park, or ask them what would be comfortable for them.
Use your curious nature and in the same way allow them to be curious of you, and be honest with yourself and with others.
I promise you, you will be the better for engaging and listening and learning together.
The Rev. Jon Osmundson