Jane's Story: Miss Information

I went to my first Suppers meetings out of curiosity. I had seen the flyers posted around town and wanted to check it out. Just curious, right? At the very first meeting I went to, I remember thinking to myself, “These people could sure use my help.” After all, I knew an awful lot about the subjects they were discussing. It was clear to me that by attending these meetings I could help everyone by telling them what I thought they should do to improve their diet, their program, and their life. But every time I got on a roll, the facilitator brought the discussion back to the Suppers concept of biological individuality and how everyone was free to experiment and set their own pace and course of action.

It was frustrating for me because I knew if they would just eat the way I told them to eat, they’d feel a lot better. I said this to the facilitator, and she said, “Good information is not enough.” Even if I were right, she said, the price of telling people what to do is too high if it compromises the safe setting of the meeting. “Stay curious,” she said. “There are no experts at Suppers.” Apparently everybody there already knew they needed better eating habits; they were coming because forces greater than themselves were sabotaging their good intentions. Before diet, before experiments and education, before all the things that Suppers does with its members, it creates a safe environment. Thinking back to times when I felt vulnerable, I certainly didn’t want to be told what to do; I wanted to be heard.

I noticed as I observed long-time members that they were there to continue their own learning. Some were, like me, from helping professions and accustomed to being asked for advice. But Suppers doesn’t offer advice, it suggests experiments. I needed to learn to simply share my experiences, including my weaknesses and strengths. In that way, others had the opportunity to identify – or not – with my sharing. Perhaps they would be inspired or take hope for their own journey, but they would not compare or criticize.

What was my reason for being at Suppers? The only requirement for membership is a desire to lead a healthier life. Was that my desire? It took me a long time to ask myself these questions because I knew what the answers would be. I enjoy being judgmental. Part of the enjoyment I feel when I tell people what they ought to do comes from feeling superior. I sit in judgment every time I offer unsolicited advice. My choices were to either stay and work my own change process, or go someplace else to find people to fix.

I decided to attend Suppers meetings from then on with the only requirement for membership – desire to lead a healthier life – always in my mind. I learned how to share my knowledge without selling it and to take my turn speaking. I learned that part of sharing is sharing the time, so as many people as possible could speak during the meetings. People do ask me for my opinion on matters related to food and health, but they are asking just as much because I have become a safe person as because I’m full of good information. I did not become that safe person until I learned that curiosity feels much better than judgment.