does that word send chills up anyone's spine? for many it probably does. either that or a lightening bolt of energy if you're one of those who thrive on it. i find that we're often wired hard one way or the other when it comes to this phenomenon of human interaction. fight or flight if you will. it might be because of the unhealthy ways we've seen it happen to others, or even ourselves. whatever your opinion on the word is, you cannot escape it. confrontation is a natural, and necessary, part of relationships and therefore life.
i have been blessed to be in a community of people who are working towards living in emotional health. in other words, we are learning what it means to be able to remain in loving relationship with one another despite our differences and how to communicate and express ourselves in the most mature and loving way. have we perfected it? absolutely not! is it a vast improvement from the way i lived my life before? a resounding YES!
sometimes i take for granted how far we've all come and how rare these types of interactions are, especially when i deal with people from outside that learning environment. this is where i'll share my example from yesterday. i came into the building that i work in and decided to stop by the office of another woman (not associated with where i work, just the same building). i hadn't yet told her my exciting engagement news and figured it was about time since i see her several times a week. i walked into the office and gleefully exclaimed (while holding up my left hand) that i got engaged! the next thing out of her mouth was, "oh who's the lucky guy this time?" yes, emphasis on the this time. BOOM. i felt like i had the wind knocked out of me. it took everything within me to remain composed and finish my conversation with her. i was shaking as i made my way to my office. my pastor (that i work for) was in the office and i recounted what had just happened to him. he, too was shocked and surprised at the abrasiveness of the comment. i told myself that i would just "shrug it off" and "let it go." how many times do we tell ourselves that? how often does that really work? i mean come on, let's be real. it doesn't go away. it stays and it usually boils and festers and turns into bitterness, unforgiveness and sometimes an explosive rush of emotions because we bottled it up.
not too long later i had to go back into her office to use her fax machine. as i'm standing at the fax machine i can hear that still, small voice telling me that i needed to share my feelings with her. i needed to let her know that her comment hurt me. and thankfully, this time, i obeyed. i turned around and asked her if we could talk for a minute and then i proceeded, as calmly and as lovingly as i could, to tell her how her words made me feel. to let her know that the fact that i have been engaged before is a very sensitive subject for me. i told her that it was never my desire to have to end my previous engagement and i shared with her some of the pain and hurt that led to that decision. obviously her intent was never to hurt me and i knew that, but that didn't change the fact that her comment still hurt me. what ended up transpiring was, what i believe, a great conversation where she shared with me some of the things she was struggling with and i did my best to encourage her in her journey. her eyes welled up with tears and honestly my heart broke for this woman. i was able to look on her with compassion and see the struggle she was going through. i never would have been able to have that experience if i hadn't chosen to share my feelings with her.
when we minimize and ignore our feelings we hurt not only ourselves, but others as well. we deny THEM the opportunity to grow as we are! we also lose a part of ourselves by not being honest about how we really feel. our feelings are valid and real to us, even if someone tries to rationalize them and tell us otherwise. i know for many this is a difficult concept to grasp because our feelings have been ignored. we have been told that we are wrong to feel a certain way. that if the other person didn't intend to hurt us then we have no right to be hurt. that way of thinking can be so destructive and damaging to our fragile human hearts.
from the other side, i know that it can be difficult to sit there while someone tells you that you've hurt them. it's literally painful for me to sit quietly and just listen while not cutting them off or interjecting to defend myself. in fact, i still do it sometimes. but it's something that i am much more aware of and working hard to be better at because it's a much healthier form of communication and ultimately it's the most loving way to respond.
i just felt led to share this today in the hopes that it helps or encourages someone in their interactions with others. this world could use a lot more love and peace and it starts with us.
grace and peace,