This past Sunday, I was in church listening to the sermon, part of a Radical Love series. It came down to two questions. First, what would happen if we spent less time/creativity/energy on pushing buttons or making a point and instead tried to figure out how to be loving? What would be different if we just dropped all of that drama and interacted differently?
This sermon brought up memories of a sermon I heard close to 13 years ago. The basic premise of that sermon was the best way to change and improve a relationship is to change how we show up in that relationship. When we treat others differently, they are forced, in a way, to treat us differently. This difference in the way we interact inherently changes the relationship.
The night before I heard the first sermon, our neighborhood was full of chaos. Some terrible things were revealed about one of our immediate neighbors, and he decided to shoot himself in front of his family. It was a brutal scene to watch. My children, who were 2-years old and nine months old, were woken up at almost midnight due to all the racket of police, paramedics, and neighbors outside our home. It was a tough night for all involved.
To say the least, I did not get along well with these particular neighbors. There had been a lot of turmoil and drama, and I did my best to ignore them, and quite frankly, I didn’t like them. I wanted nothing to do with them. When that neighbor killed himself, I had every intention of continuing to ignore his wife “Jane” and his daughter; then, I heard that sermon about treating people we find difficult differently and seeing what changes. So, when I got home and made lunch for my family, I decided I would make food for the neighbors. Jane’s family was arriving, and I knew they would need to eat. So, I cooked and walked what felt like the most difficult 20 feet of my life with my hands full of food. Jane was in the driveway with her sisters; I handed her the food, and she said nothing while running back into the house. My first thought was, “of course, she doesn’t appreciate this.”
Not long after, there was a knock on our door, and it was Jane’s sister. She came because Jane didn’t understand why I had done something for her when she had been so horrible to me for so long. The only answer I had was that I wanted things to change. It was true; I wouldn’t say I liked our relationship; this sermon encouraged me to make that change. And, I don’t think I would have pushed that change, despite the sermon, without the trauma of the night before. We got closer over the next few weeks/months/years, and it was much easier to be neighbors. We spent time together but never became great friends, and I no longer dreaded seeing her.
Ten years later, as I was navigating the early stages of my divorce, I was angry at my ex. I felt like I had done everything to “fix” our marriage, and it didn’t matter. All of the things were happening to me, all I wanted to do was fight him, and it didn’t matter about what. I began my coach training program, and on the first day, we talked about energy. (You can find more about that here.) I heard the same message, just a little differently. People match our energy; if you don’t like what is happening, you have the choice to show up differently and change how you interact. That day, I decided I wouldn’t fight him, and I would no longer feel like the victim. I slightly shifted towards cooperation by understanding what I wanted and why I wanted it. This was not easy, but that shift was the beginning of major changes.
My ex and I don’t have a perfect relationship, but it’s above average for couples who have recently split. When I showed up differently, he did too. While it took some time, we learned to work together, understand each other better, and create a solid co-parenting relationship. Changing our relationship took a lot of energy, effort, pain, communication, practice, and grace. It also took self-awareness, understanding my role, and taking things less personally.
If there are complicated relationships in your life and you are ready to make a change, let’s find a time to chat. I would love to work with you, helping you understand what you want in those relationships and uncover what is holding you back. I promise the work is worth it.