Sunday, October 21, 2012
October 21, 2012
A warm thank you to Lori for last week’s fine blog. I did have one concern, however—I couldn’t place either the content or the composition in her suggested context of “first-grade.” Lori, the life-long learner, yes, I could see that. But “first grader”—actually, I saw no evidence at all of that.
Lori regularly writes “Fairy Godmother’s Dust” [her own blog], so in retrospect I could see an unintended irony in asking her to author this piece. Learning to deal constructively with injury in relationships requires confrontation with our favorite fairy-tale ending. We want to believe that the story reports fact: that people do indeed live “happily ever after.” Maybe, but not so much, as Fairy Godmother herself has pointed out.
Relational skill at this point requires well-developed emotional peripheral vision. We must be able to see ourselves—no small task—while seeing out of “the corner of our eye,” so to speak, the responses of others. Conversely, we must be able to see others—both their acts and the half-hidden inner worlds from which their actions spring—while keeping clear out of “the corner of our eye” that the reality of ourselves (both who we are and what we do) may lie in a “blind spot” for others.
In relationships, we will both injure others and be injured through ignorance, and by both accident and intention, as Lori pointed out. We can choose to manage injury so that it is minimized; we can choose to manage injury so that it transforms the experience into compassion, insight and patience. We can shape the impact, we can alter the consequence, we can utilize pain for self-transformation and growth, but we cannot avoid it. In real relationships, there are no uncomplicated, unlimited, effort-free tomorrows of over-the-rainbow living.
Lonely people are often believers in the happy-ever-after ending who hang on the fairy tale in defiance of their own experience. They continue to be shocked when injury happens to them as though their personhood itself exempts them from the reality of relationships.
They argue (usually with anger), “I certainly didn’t deserve that.”
They take little responsibility for injury they cause. “I couldn’t help that.” “That’s her/his problem. I’m just being who I am.” “You don’t know the whole story. It wasn’t my fault—he/she asked for it.”
Their sense of their loneliness reflects unjustified (and sometimes "unexplainable") injury. Their stories reflect a sad, often bewildered sense that they deserved and would have had a “lived happily ever after” ending if only the rest of the world had been willing to play by their rules.
Spectators remain spectators. Whatever their passionate emotional investment in the game, as spectators they are only virtual participants. They avoid the bruises and injuries that may come as the result of a hard-played game. They may envy or admire the players but they can only imagine the comaraderie of those who, whatever the outcome, play the game and risk the outcome.
In life as in games, however, there are rules for a reason. A well-played game is hedged about by rules and protective gear designed to minimize injury. Few sensible people choose to enter a game with those who do not know the rules, or who hold themselves exempt from the requirement to abide by them. Wise people rarely enter deliberately into relationships (or games) without some protective gear whether that gear is knowledge, skill, or physical ‘stuff.’
In relationships as in games, not everyone knows how to play; not everyone is willing to keep the rules. Consequently, it is well to choose partners in relationships wisely. But it is vital to remember as well that whatever the skill level and the willingness to “play by the rules,” in relationships no one is immune from the potential injury that lies inherent in the nature of life itself.
Thinking with you today that in our culture thousands of people can identify an “off sides” in football but who do not realize that a “rule book” for relationships even exists.
What are the rules in your rule book for relationships?
See you next week.