|Posted on 24 February, 2016 at 17:55|
As a counselor, I often teach people tools to improve their relationships. We can all develop better ways of relating to the people we love, work with, play with, or go to church with. We are prone to misunderstanding or assuming what someone means instead of really listening to what they are saying. Learning to ask questions, stepping away from our own agenda, and not becoming defensive are all ways to improve a difficult conversation and avoid an argument.
How do we get started? We need to get to know the other person. What do they like? What don’t they like? What is their background? Are they defensive because they grew up in a critical environment or live in an abusive relationship? How can you make the conversation safe for them? If we can give people the benefit of the doubt, we can often diffuse a potential conflict. This is true for the sales clerk at the check out and it is true for your spouse.
If you are in relationship with God through Christ, you have a responsibility to love those you come in contact with. It is often harder to live Christ’s love out at home than it is to show that same love to people you meet elsewhere. At home forgiveness is key. No one is perfect. We expect others to accept us as we are; yet we most often do not give them the same honour or respect we wish to receive. That does not mean we accept abuse. What it does mean is that our love and acceptance is not dependent on the behavior of the person receiving it. It is the little things that cause us the most difficulty in relationship.
How many times have you been irritated because someone put an empty cereal box back in the cupboard (my personal pet peeve), did a poor job of shoveling the driveway, left dirty dishes in the living room, or some other little thing. Do you take it personally? Do you feel your child, spouse, or roommate is disrespecting you by doing or not doing something? In response, do you yell, disrespecting them as well? Worse yet, withdraw your love or put them down because of your own hurt or anger? We do one of three things in these situations: we react outwardly, we let it build up inside, or we release it and forgive. Forgiveness is always the best choice. Forgiveness does not mean we ignore issues that need to be addressed. If you asked your teenager to shovel the walk and he/she just made a little trail through the snow, you might need to have a discussion with them, but do it in love without condemnation. If we forgive instead of becoming defensive, we have a better chance of working together to find creative solutions.
It is not an easy thing to change the way we react or what we believe about why people do things that irritate us, but it is possible. Most often, it is not a conscious decision on their part to push your buttons. You’re just not that important! Stepping back from your own hurt or irritation is vital to living and walking in love and forgiveness.
Try this exercise: write down every time you are irritated, angry, or hurt today. Ask yourself if some questions:
Was that individual really trying to hurt me?
Was I reacting because I was being inconvenienced?
Were they reacting to something outside of my control?
Did I ask questions to clarify the situation or just get mad?
How did I treat them afterward: go silent, get huffy, slam stuff, tell them they were stupid?
The more aware you are of your own feelings and reactions, the easier it is to begin to make positive changes. There is so much we can learn about ourselves and about others that will improve our relationships and help us make better decisions, but awareness and understanding are a great place to start. Even a small change in your understanding of how you think and react to others can make a difference in how you relate to the important people in your life.