|Photo by Andrew C.|
I love people.
I love loving people. It's truly one of my favorite things about this life I get to live.
In return, there is nothing more healing and hopeful and sacred to me than being loved by those who know me best. They love me through touch and words and gifts of time and energy ... and ass kicking.
Loving, giving, careful, consistent ass kicking.
"I can't put my finger on it, but something's not quite right."
"I totally want to scream at my kid, too. I get it. Take some deep breaths with me."
"Marriage is as hard as it is fulfilling. It's SO HARD. And so worth it."
"I want to gorge, too. Have those M&Ms. I'll call you on Friday and make sure you went for your run."
I love having these types of relationships in my life. Yet, do any of you occasionally have someone assume they have this place in your life when they don't? They feel they have a right to counsel you ... whether you have asked for it or not.
Any time you put yourself in a position that is even slightly public, this will happen. It comes with the territory. However, I think we all have it on occasion (and we've all done it - I'll get to that later).
I have an amazing friend who also shares my history of being "the pastor's wife." She has had this happen on more than one occasion. After an acquaintance went out of their way to correct her "in love," she expressed a concept to the person that has never left me. It was what I always knew to be true, but I had yet to put it into words:
"You don't have permission to speak into my life this way."
This statement has swirled in my head for a few years now. It says what is true. There are people who have earned the right and the space to speak into our lives in such a way. They are invited. They have proven themselves. They are our inner circle and know more of us than anyone else. Our spouses, our closest friends, our family and sometimes people who actually aren't terribly close to us but we have given them permission to hold us to a very high level of accountability (think AA sponsors, therapists, workout partners, etc.).
These are the people who hold our hearts in their hands. We give over this tremendously delicate part of us, knowing they could crush us with one, selfish squeeze. There is a reason we place ourselves in such a vulnerable state with these people. They have earned our trust. They will massage - not squeeze. They will nudge, not push. They will lift up, not throw darts. They will listen before speaking. They already know the big picture because they are invested in us. When they are strong, they will reach down and hold onto us for dear life until we have enough strength to climb up to join them. They are patient. They are consistent. They have already been there and they will continue to be there.
Why am I yammering on about this? It came up recently in conversation with a friend. Then I read a blog post this morning that also caused me to think of it. I decided to write about it, and found the first few paragraphs of this post in my drafts. I had dated it one year into the future, figuring the draft would catch my eye at some point and I would eventually finish it. Today. I went looking for the draft and there it sat. Dated ... today. So, there you go.
I'm taking time to evaluate myself. I used to be one of these people. I would watch others from a distance and decide I had some sort of knowledge or correction for them. I would find a way to insert myself into their life - uninvited. At the time, I justified it based on my spiritual beliefs and the way I had heard someone interpret the Bible (not realizing there are many ways to interpret this approach to relationship and accountability). I never stopped, for one second, and thought to myself, "Hmm, perhaps if they are struggling, there is someone very close to them that can already speak to this. Perhaps, they already have. Perhaps, I'm having a problem with them that is actually my problem. Not theirs."
I stopped this a long time ago, as it began to happen more and more to me. That seems to be the way life teaches me. It's wonderfully humbling. In this instance, I woke up and realized exactly what I was doing, and how it was really about me. My issues. My insecurities. My misunderstanding of my place in the lives of others.
While I've stopped speaking into the lives of others this way, I've also found it easier to let it go when it's done to me. Honestly, you can have more compassion for someone who does something hurtful when you've actually done the very same thing at some point in your life. I repeat: wonderfully humbling. It gives me an opportunity to stop and think before speaking. Do I need to even respond (ie: when your best friend from 3rd grade, who hasn't so much as said hello on social media for 14 years, writes to say, "I can't believe you did that to your hair. Seriously, is your husband okay with that?")? Typically the answer is "no," or a simple, "Thank you so very much for showing an interest. Thankfully I have many people in my life, every day, who are here to love, support and guide me through life's big and little decisions. I am grateful for them." Heck, throw in an emoticon, if you want.
It was Craig Ballantyne's words that caught my eye this morning: "If I have caused harm, I apologize and fix the situation. However, if someone simply doesn’t like something I have done or something that I do or disagrees with me, that is fine, but I’m not going to get into an argument about it. For any confrontation-like situation, I simply take a deep breath, relax, breathe out, and re-focus my efforts back on my work and goals." I think this can fit in almost any situation, whether it's work or relationships.
And finally, to wrap it all up with a tiny bow, I am reevaluating myself today. Not because it's a new year. Just because it's Friday and it's in my brain. While I keep a strong, trusted, invited group of people around me to hold my heart ... am I also being the kind of person who is invited into that sacred space for others? With the people who do give me that, am I staying invested in their life? Do I need to be doing better for myself so I can keep doing better for others?
It's a lot of good crap to think about. On any Friday.
To my very small group of people, those who know all of me and whom I have trusted with my most intimate details ... thank you. It is so very scary to be vulnerable, but it is so very wonderful to trust that to someone. You make me better.