Give the Gift of Relationship
This past Friday evening, I had the pleasure of speaking virtually to a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group in north-central Illinois. As I looked at these vibrant young women, so full of love and laughter, my heart went out to them. Behind the smiles, I knew that some must be facing difficult situations with truculent children, aging parents, or absentee spouses.
How could I come alongside them to offer any meaningful assistance other than my 40-minute message?
The next morning, I stood in line at the post office to mail the group a copy of a brand new resource: The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make, by co-authors Pamela Farrel (raised by a single mom) and PeggySue Wells (single mom of seven). Although PeggySue and Pam have written especially for women navigating life without the assistance and support of a spouse, much of the wise counsel they offer applies to all moms.
I've asked PeggySue to share here on "View From the Ridge" today. If you've ever experienced or witnessed relational conflict between your children or grandchildren, please read on for a giveaway and PeggySue's practical tips on how to gather as a family (in-person or virtually) with "none of the emotional drama and all of the pie!"
"Saturday, my teen groused around the house. In mom mode, I tried to cheer her with tea, a couple jokes, and her favorite breakfast.
When none of my efforts made a difference, like many single moms, I quickly reasoned the problem must be me. Doubtless, my daughter would rather spend Saturday with anyone else.
Feeling rejected, I was tempted to give her the silent treatment. Eventually I might choose to vent my hurt with a barbed jab. How easy to say, “Is your homework done? You better keep those grades above C level.”
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all,” Paul instructed in Romans 12:18 (ESV). If we’re doing our best to live peaceably, why does conflict escalate between those we love, neighbors, community members, political parties, and world governments? How can we nurture and strengthen relationships near and far?
The Root of Conflict
As families, coworkers, and fellow inhabitants of planet Earth, we’re proficient at the 5 R’s. The process begins like that Saturday morning with my daughter.
1. Something happens or is said, done, not said, or not done that results in me feeling rejected. My efforts to cheer my daughter were rebuffed.
2. Rejection feels lousy, so I become resentful about feeling rejected. I made up a story about why my teen daughter acted unhappy.
3. Resentful, I resist relationship with the person I feel resentful toward. This showed up when I gave my daughter the silent treatment.
4. Resistance becomes action when it leads to revenge. Verbal attacks about my daughter’s homework are unkind volleys designed to hurt in the way I felt she hurt me.
5. Repeat. Unresolved, this cycle repeats automatically until a relationship is damaged beyond repair. My daughter did not engage with me, so I disengage from her, so she distanced herself from my barbs, and I kept a wall between us, and so the pattern continued.
These are the 5 R’s that spell destruction to relationships: rejection, resentment, resistance, revenge, repeat.
Families have a long history together to continually practice until the cycle becomes expected as people unthinkingly play their parts. Think of the aunt perpetually offended by someone in the family. The relative who plays favorites. The sibling who pouts when he doesn’t get his way. This is the foundation for holidays where folks gather to emotionally abuse one another, and have pie.
Practice Makes Permanent
When you find yourself in one of the 5 R’s, here’s how to immediately place the relationship on positive footing.
1. Resentment is negative emotional reactions to what you think was said or done, or not said or done. Resentment shows up as drama words in your vocabulary: need, perfect, should.
“He needs to . . .”
“I’m not perfect, but . . .”
“She should . . .”
You are stuck in resentment when you are stuck in drama.
Solution: Shift to gratitude.
“I’m grateful he . . .”
“What fun to . . .”
“I’m thankful she . . .”
2. Resistance is cutting off connection. Avoiding eye contact and giving the silent treatment is shutting down emotionally and relationally toward another.
Solution: Engage. Make eye contact, have conversations. Clear the air by saying, “The story I’m making up in my head about ________ is _______________.”
3. Revenge is taking advantage of a situation or setting up an opportunity to hurt another. If you are saying something like, “Now he will know how it feels” or “Serves her right” or “He had it coming,” you are in revenge.
Solution: Extend generosity to the person you feel revengeful toward. Does the person deserve generosity? Maybe not. That’s why it’s called grace.
Perhaps the person who hurt you is not safe. In such situations be generous elsewhere, but be generous or you’ll become bitter.
4. Repeat. A toxic pattern is to believe that because you are hurt, you have the right to be unkind and hurtful. Then you hurt someone, and they hurt you, and you are offended, and they are offended, and in that offense both parties dive deeply into the 5 R’s.
Solution: Release others from your expectations of how they should act or behave.
Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult, (Proverbs 12:16).
Fact versus Fiction
The moment you feel rejected is your most powerful opportunity to choose. Choose to step off into the familiar yet painful cycle of the 5 R’s, or choose grace, joy, and health.The life-giving, life-changing solution comes by sticking to the facts. The fact was my teen was not her usual relational self. Had I acknowledged that fact and stopped there, I would not have felt rejected and the 5 R parade would not have begun.
Realizing I was in the 5 Rs, I said to my grousing teen, “The story I’m making up in my head is that I stink as a parent and you’d rather be anywhere than here with me.”
My daughter responded with a completely baffled expression. “I just learned the boy I babysit has leukemia.” (Note to self: Most folks are not even thinking about me.)
The truth is, most things people say or don’t say, do or don’t do, accidentally do or don’t do hardly ever have anything to do with you. (Yes, that’s a lot of do-do.) We’re doing our best to live as well as we can. And the best we can do has everything to do with:
• sticking to the facts
• being graciously generous
• practicing gratitude
• not taking ourselves or others too seriously
Occasionally those closest to us do reject us. Rejection, like pain, is nobody’s favorite. But if we are breathing, rejection is part of life. And we have something to learn from both pain and rejection. What’s vital is how we respond, and the 5 R’s are the antithesis of maturity, healthy relationships, and good adulting.
Without the 5 R’s, family and group gatherings can resemble heartfelt scenes from Hallmark greeting cards, and our long distance relationships thrive despite the miles. We leave down our defenses, freely cheer on others, celebrate our beloveds, enjoy relationships, and laugh until milk comes out our noses. Our in-person and virtual gatherings are none of the emotional drama and all of the pie.
Relationships are a gift to be given, treasured, and nurtured. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians. 4:31–32)
Here are gifts to help you nurture your important relationships:
If you know a single mom who might benefit from this book, please leave a comment and mention her by first name only. A winner will be drawn next week!