Last week we reflected on how little things can drag us down if we let them and that often we just need to let it go. That can be hard enough when it comes to a situation, but even more challenging when it comes to relationships.
I had a friend for several years who let’s just say was very high maintenance. On the one hand, we really enjoyed each other’s company and found many of our conversations stimulating. The majority of our interchanges, however, were her complaining to me about people I love at Ruach, our beliefs, and her personal struggles. I found our time together very emotionally draining and also found it hard for her to respect my boundaries. The more I gave emotionally, the more she would take.
Granted there are people we are in relationship with for whom we serve this purpose and that is godly. However, it is easy to fall into situations where we play that role a little too often, or truthfully this behavior is not healthy for us or even for the recipient of our attention. The key is to be able to strike that fragile balance and be able to recognize when it may be better to let it, the relationship, go.
A basic truth is you cannot change the other person. If you are in relationship with him or her, your first question is to determine if it is healthy to stay there. Obviously with friendships, acquaintances, and even business associations, this decision can be made more easily than one involving family. With those we love in that way – parental, sibling, spousal – we are in a God-given, rather than chosen, relationship so are more highly motivated to make it a healthy one.
Right brain, left brain thinking is real. My narrative style of legal case analysis falls on deaf ears to my math-brain dominant colleagues as does their arithmetic analysis of the same facts on me. However, we are able to work together to most often create a solution that reflects the best of both brains. The Mars/Venus (men/women) viewpoints are real, not to mention genetic predispositions and societal influences on our thinking. So knowing this, when we dialogue with another it is helpful to be cognizant that we may not be hearing what the other person is intending, but rather, we are hearing from our personal filters. Listening from our natural and societally influenced perspectives is actually the opposite of putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes, all the more reason we need to make a conscious effort to do so. If we stop to think about how the other person may have intended what was said rather than what we heard, we will always end up with a better understanding of what was meant.
Let’s assume that even with the best of listening techniques we still can’t agree with the other person. This is where the situation often creates a choice: utter frustrating dialogue where neither hears the other or a renewed attempt to understand where that person is coming from. This is where we can choose to love and let it go, assuming this is not a pattern of bad behavior and that winning on the merits is not really that critical.
Refusal to help. Misunderstandings. Forgetfulness. Accusations. Refusal to finish homework or complete chores. Differences of opinion about planning. Dismissiveness. Spending differences. Political and religious beliefs. The list is endless of the ways we can disagree let alone have the problem compounded by our hearing perspectives. Living presents an infinite mine field of possibilities of ways we can cross and hurt each other with our words and actions. The love that God would want for us all is under seemingly constant attack delivered on so many fronts. So rather than fall victim to a destructive inevitability given life’s challenges, we can be forearmed knowing these are the traps of the evil one and fight back to save our love relationships.
Assuming we are not talking about abusive situations, in those close relationships, the ones where the potential for this issue is the highest, at those moments of complete frustration, it helps to think about just a couple of the ways the other person has shown how much he or she loves you. That niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, son, daughter, parent, sibling, spouse really does love you despite what is said or how thoughtless the actions. You know your brother still cares for you despite religious or political differences. Think back to all the good years together. The dismissive husband or wife in that moment does not define the relationship. Remember the care with which you each serve each other in so many ways.
It’s at those times when it is difficult to feel the love that I encourage you to try the following:
• Put yourself in his or her shoes.
• Close your mouth and just listen. . . listen. . . listen.
• Think of examples of when the other person showed his or her love for you.
• Remember and relive those times in your mind.
• After awhile, express your thoughts lovingly.
• As for the frustration at the moment, assuming it’s not really that important, let it go.