Sunday, September 2, 2012

Looking for the bottom line

September 2, 2012

Dear friends,

Lori’s insightful summary regarding relationship in last week’s blog merit restating. Lori writes:

1. Relationships heal.
2. Relationships entail great risk.
3. There are no short cuts.
4. Pain is inevitable.
5. To know and be known deeply and still love is one of life’s great joys.

These points might well serve as the first five chapters in a book titled, So You Want to Connect? I expect, however, that the first chapter, “Relationships Heal,” might well turn out to be thick enough to stand alone as a book in itself.

Lori is correct: relationships do heal. However, I know that with me Lori would add a serious caveat at this point. In life we soon learn that relationships can also be the source of deep wounding and may result in brokenness that takes years to mend. In light of this unpleasant reality, it is wise to think carefully about those traits that distinguish a relationship that heals from one that injures.

Lori suggests two things that appear to be essential: integration and authenticity. If a relationship is to function in truth as a healing process participants must bring themselves as a “whole package” to the process [integration], and, in the sense of full disclosure, each bring their “whole” package in a way that enables both parties to trust that what they see is what they get [authenticity].

Lori graciously suggests that in our first interaction these characteristics were demonstrated both in my frank acknowledgement of my unsolved problem in weight management, and in her response to what I said.

I remember vividly my first impression of Lori—slender, beautifully dressed, a “got-it-all-together” girl speaking with a slow cultured shadow of Texas in her voice.

And I remember too the immediate relational decision I faced as she explained her reason for seeking help. How soon and how directly should I confront the vital difference between us in appearance?

It seemed (and still seems) to me that I made a productive choice. I brought clearly and immediately to the table my sense of who I was—an experienced therapist with good skills, a sound sense of risk, and a tested faith. But I brought too an authentic acknowledgement that not all my life problems were solved.

In retrospect, I suppose in that nanosecond in which we make relational choices, I thought, “Well, the first thing we have to determine is whether this beautiful woman who looks perfect is willing to risk relationship with a therapist who is clearly flawed and imperfect.”

In that instant, Lori too brought to the table an authentic report of who she was: a woman whose troubled reliance on appearance and “people pleasing” had left her with a troubling and insufficient framework for successful integration of her essential self.

If relationship is to be healing, participants must bring the whole person to the process, and in doing so present an honest account of the reality of the whole person as they best know themselves at that time.

The reality with which Lori and I began has, of course, shifted with the impact of the years and with the changes in roles that we now play with each other. The interactions through which we have both been changed have incorporated many complex factors as we have worked out what integration and authenticity look like in the shoe-leather of walking through this long relational journey with each other.

Thank you, Lori, for your generous heart. From the beginning you have been willing to grant me a mercy that you were not always willing to give yourself. And thank you that trust has been able to flourish between us because, while less than perfect--like me, sigh!--you persisted in  bringing your whole self without pretense or dishonesty to the relationship. Your practice of authenticity and integration has blessed my life and encouraged my growth.

Thinking with you this week that healing may be mysterious but it certainly isn’t magic.

See you next week.


P.S. There is good news regarding my sister, Beth. She has stabilized and appears to have returned to us again for a space, although no one is guessing how long that time may be. Skype permits us to talk together almost daily. While Skype does not permit true “presence,” it does provide a reassuring connection for which we are both grateful. We continue to covet your prayers.

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