tending relationships with love and humility

My last blog post created a bit of a stir, mostly off site, I am pleased to say. I feel the need to state clearly that while there are many blogging styles and purposes, mine is 75% open journal sharing of my thoughts and experiences in the 7th decade of my curious life. The remaining 25% is whatever crosses my path that I think might be of interest to others. I am not out to create controversy,  show off to the world or hurt my friends, but sometimes it seems inevitable that someone will be offended by my views. Richard Rohr has occasionally used the term Receiving Stations, in reference to the way we receive information (whatever it’s origin or content) through the channels of our particular personal views and life experiences.  Important fact to remember for communicating with others: Receiving Stations are as important as Sending Stations. What is sent may not be received clearly. There could be static on the line, or perhaps some other type of interference.  So, as a blogger I must be clear that what I am publishing is the truth as I have experienced it; I must own past and present views as my own…and I do. When I write about  experiences that include others, I try to do so with anonymity for them. Even so, there is always the chance that someone will find offense that I do not intend. Sometimes it’s the receiving station on the blink…sometimes it’s me, the sending station. The thing is, you bloggers out there, if you are writing about your own views, reflections, and experiences with respect for others, then you are okay, until or unless someone shows you differently.

One of my friends left a comment about tending relationships with love and humility. What about this? As Christ followers (or people of spiritual conviction), how is this done without occasionally stepping on a size-able twig and hearing it snap back? And what if the twig was never really there at all, but only there in the receiving station friend? What if what one has said, or written is true, but perceived by another not as intended, and that person (one’s friend), sustains offense? What next? Matthew 18:15-20 has always been the model for me, but the success of it seems to rely largely on each participant believing in its form and value.

I have tried on the humility of apology for love’s sake—Jesus sake. When the result has been reconciling, I’ve been glad to do it (maybe even a bit too proud?), but when the problem is so large that it becomes chasmic, I find I do not yet possess the quality of humility required to absorb in love rather than a more familiar ploy of escalating my effort to explain into a win/win ending. In short, I become defensive. This is much more likely to be the case for me  in relation to some Enneagram types than others. Nonetheless, it is a problem:  do I fall on my sword, continue explanations ad infinitum, or resort to the defensive posture I’ve known all my life?

Well, here’s the thing:  my defensive posture covers anger, which in turn covers hurt. Some will say that no one can make you feel hurt unless you give them that power. Of course I don’t buy that. Been there, done that, and have a few scars to show. I’m in my 7th decade. I was out there trying this, that and the other before some of my dear friends were even born. There is just enough truth in this paradigm to be dangerous to most of us common folk. What really happens when we sustain a sense of wounding/hurt—if true,  we have the option of being truthful about it and possibly receiving an apology. If untrue, we can respond as though it were true,  and avoid a falling out. Or we can yank out our trusty defense responses and gear up for battle…the first one to wobble loses… Then again…we can take whatever spiritual path is common to our belief system and work toward its promised conclusion. As a Christ follower, my professed choice is, of course the Matthew 18 pattern of resolution, that failing, my choice defaults to a descending order of  first setting aside the defense measures that cover my anger, then setting my mind to letting go of the anger (which so perfectly covers my hurt and/or humiliation), and sitting with that while God watches that the waters of mourning climb high enough to transform, but not overwhelm me.

Just so you don’t think I am whistling Dixie while the bullets fly…  This is very hard for me to do. Let me say this again in another way: allowing the painful place to lie uncovered…open to the wind and rain is extremely difficult to do. I think the only reason I can occasionally come anywhere near close to this is because I am old enough to know that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in the end. By everything I mean Spiritual Transformation/Wholeness…Peace…Shalom.

So this is my summary answer to the self-help therapists responsible for the popular notion that by not acknowledging hurt received, the responsible party is not endowed with enough power to grow his/her power garden. If I follow your counsel I risk losing my ability to feel as well as think. And I so appreciate that right brain gift of the Magae: feeling, and especially the transformation thing. Now that is really something!

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August 2009

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