It’s Not about Me
St Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church one of the most beautiful and comprehensive treatises on love that has ever been written. He speaks of love being patiend and kind, never jealous or boastful, always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and so on. However he did leave at least one great omission. Love is not just patient and kind, it is also desperate in its desire to leave nothing unblemished in the beloved. Real love is tough when it comes to speaking the truth because without it being spoken we will never have our blind spots exposed and so our growth and maturity will be limited. The important thing about speaking the truth is that is is never about us needing to offload our annoyance but is is about the other, and his or her need to know the truth about themselves, in a manner that will help their personal growth and self-awareness.
Welcoming Constructive Criticism
The Bible is very strong about confronting unacceptable behaviour. To turn a blind eye is to condone it. To excuse it is to ensure that it will recur. To invite consrtuctive criticism is a great mark of maturity, A couple when they got married made a commitment that regularly they would ask each other a very courageous question, ‘What is it like for you to have me as your partner’?
Years later thay claim that this one question, and having answered it with honesty, had brought wonderful growth into their relationship. What we least need is unloving criticism while what we most need is critical love. Unloving criticism damages our self-esteem while critical love has our well-being at heart and is essential for our growth and development.
Our Inner Critic
Why is any form of criticism so difficult to take? Why do we react so negatively and become defensive? Most of us growing up probably received a lot more criticism than encouragement. The criticism we receved we then internalized and so we developed a strong inner critic. Largely this lies hidden until it is awakened by any word that is perceived being judgmental.
In effect we tend to hear criticism not as adults but as children. This is why is takes a fair degree of maturity to welcome constructive criticism. For the less mature it has the effect of opening up old wounds and awakening earlier emotions. In our reaction to criticism we are reinacting old scenarios and so are unable to really hear what may well be for our benefit. After saying all that the truth that can set us free must first shatter our illusions of being okay and so is never for the faint hearted.
Our Sore Spots
Our memory operates at several levels. We carry visual memories that we can easily recall in our minds while we also carry emotional memories that we have no conscious memory of. Our hurtful memories tend to lie just beneath the surface and are like a wound over which a scab of protective tissue has formed. It’s when we accidentally bump that wounded part against something that there is an ‘ouch’ factor that reminds us that, although covered over and no longer bleeding, the wound still has not healed.
While our conscious mind has limited recall our unconscious remembers everything, even our very earliest experiences. A rejection in later life can trigger a womb rejection and completely throw us. Because it happened prior to rational thought we can feel emotionally swamped with no awareness of what is actually happening. Even a perceived criticism in adulthood can awaken the deep wound of being put down, made feel ashamed or not being vaildated as a child.
Monitoring Our Reactions
One of the very best ways we can grow in self-awareness is to monitor our reactions. It’s our spontaneous unrehearsed reactions that have so much to teach us. Rather than making excuses for ourselves saying, ‘this was really not me’ or ‘I was having a bad day’, it’s far better to take responsibility and say ‘It was entirely me’. It may not have been the me I wanted to be but it is still the me that stands in need of healing.
In a reaction we always regress back to the default position of the original hurt which is precisely what we are reinacting with all its painful emotions. This is where every reaction is a veiled invitation for healing; to bring to the surface something that has been hidden for so long. A very useful question to ask while struggling to extricate ourselves from the grip of a reaction is
‘What age would I be if I didn’t know what age I was’?
Forgiveness – The Road to Freedom
Forgiveness – Crossroads
The photo depicts forgiveness in terms of a crossroads. The past points downwards and the future points upwards. Forgiveness is the central road and reflects a moment in the present when we set ourselves free from the downward pull of the past and open out a bright new future. It may take many years to realize something very basic about forgiveness, that where it is lacking, the past is alive and well in the present and when it is practiced it has the effect of placing the past where it belongs, in the past. A hurt from twenty years ago where it has never been forgiven and let go of, has the power to do just as much damage now as it had then. Each time we return to it in our thoughts our bodies release the same chemicals as when the hurt first happened so in essence we are traumatizing ourselves over and over again.
Forgiveness is not forgetting what has happened and letting the other off the hook.
It is not making excuses for the other because we only excuse what was not meant.
It is not pretending that we are not angry but it is being bigger than our anger.
It is not condoning behavior that is unacceptable.
It is not reconciliation since that is a choice involving all parties.
It is acknowledging the hurt that is and by choosing forgiveness not to live in the past, but to move on with our lives.
The Blame Game
So endemic is the tendency to blame that we seem to be born with it as part of our DNA. In the Genesis story when confronted with their actions Adam blamed Eve and Even blamed the serpent while neither took responsibility. Growth towards maturity always involves a movement away from blaming to taking responsibility.
An anacronym for BLAME could be, Big Losers Always Make Excuses. We always lose out when we blame, just as Adam and Even were put out of the Garden. To blame is to give our personal power away and so we remain in a powerless victim mode. Blame can also be spelled as B-lame and in truth we are always lame when we blame. It is never what someone else has said or done that has upset our apple cart, but rather how we have reacted to it.
No one is the ultimate cause of our unhappiness except ourselves. It’s always easier to fix the blame than the problem.