My eldest and I were at logger heads one afternoon.
I wanted her to do something, but she was (to my hurried eyes) acting mopey and dragging her feet. We were getting more frustrated with each other, and I found myself becoming more rigid and unkind with her in my irritation, whilst she got more upset and started to cry.
Not a proud mummy moment.
It was horrible.
We were utterly disconnected.
In that moment, I had a choice.
To get angrier and behave more rudely – Or to stop, pause and re-calibrate.
So I stopped.
I took a deep breath, sending up a quick prayer for grace and kindness towards us both, then apologised for being unkind. I asked if we could move to a different room, sit together and ask God to show us a new way forward.
She agreed, we prayed together and then we started again.
It transpired that she was worrying about something wholly unrelated, which was weighing her down emotionally and affecting her energy levels.
And all of a sudden, what had been a moment of refusing to pay attention to each other, had become an opportunity for deeper connection and empathy.
We talked it through, we hugged, and we were instantly closer.
I heard her, and she heard me.
Then we both felt more able to tackle the tasks which had previously caused the tension. Something which ten minutes previously had seemed impossible.
I don’t share this because I think I am the ultimate example of great connection, because I am most definitely not.
However, I have noticed how much closer my relationships are when I allow myself to really notice what is going on, choose to lean into the discomfort, and hold an empathic space to for us to meet as vulnerable equals.
It might cost me some pride in the moment, to let go of my need to push through in a desperate bid to feel like I really am in charge, but the payoff of surrendering to vulnerability far outweighs the expenditure.
And I don’t want to miss connecting with the people who have been given to me, to lovingly walk with through this life.
Achieving this might feel really hard, but I promise you it is not actually complicated.
We always have a choice – sometimes we have to make it, in the tiny space between one moment and the next –
To choose to be present, rather than only half there.
To choose relationship, over running to a plan.
To choose to pause, rather than plough on.
There is nothing wrong with a good plan. Personally I love having a shape to work within, but if we sacrifice ‘getting the stuff done’ at the expense of someone else’s wellbeing (or ours for that matter), we risk riding roughshod over their heart, and hurting ours in the process.
Control is a poor substitute for connection.
We are wired for connection and relationship, and we are not (however much we want to be) in control of this life.
The one who is in charge, promises to lead us kindly and gently – and in my experience, it is far better to let him be concerned with keeping the world turning , because I do a pretty poor job of it.
So, next time you are up against a conflict in a relationship or situation, will you try this? it always helps me:
Ask for grace to flow, your heart to soften and to see the situation with new eyes.
Listen for a kind answer from the still, small voice.
And receive the courage to start again.