This really should be titled “Things Laura Needs to Change in Herself,” but I thought I’d pass them along to you.
Be with the one you’re with. A friend used this phrase when she talked about a mutual friend of ours. Dee said whenever she stops by Robbie’s house, Robbie always has time for her. Doesn’t matter if dishes are piled up in the sink, laundry needs to be folded, the checkbook needs to be balanced: Robbie puts those aside and suggests a cup of tea on the front porch.
When she listens, she’s really listening, not half listening and half remembering the dirty dishes. She’s fully involved in the conversation, mentally and physically there with the person.
Learn how to apologize. You’d think this should be a no-brainer, but most people consider mumbling “I’m sorry” to be an apology. Um, I beg to differ. I’m trying to train my daughters to apologize to each other. Here’s how it goes:
Daughter #1: (screeches, sobs and screams) Mommy, Mommy, Mommy! She hit me!
Daughter #2: (bunches her eyebrows together, scowling) I did not! She was on the chair that I was on first! I wanted her to get off.
Me: (Sighs, wanting to return to my blog post) Did you hit her?
Daughter #2: (Pouts. She knows she’s caught.)
Me: What do you say?
Daughter #2: Sorry.
Me: For what?
Daughter #2: For hitting you.
Daughter #2: Mommy, I need privacy! I don’t want you to hear.
Me: (walks around the corner, out of eyesight but not out of hearing range)
Daughter #2: (whispering in Daughter #1’s ear) Will you forgive me?
Daughter #1: (still sniffling, nods)
They hug and kiss, which involves my older daughter nearly knocking over my young daughter. Usually peace reigns after this little exercise, though not always. I figure that this formula apology covers the bases:
- acknowledgement of wrong doing,
- acknowledgement of what the wrong doing was, and
- a request for forgiveness and a chance of reconciliation.
Get mad about the right things. Anger isn’t always wrong. Even Jesus pitched a hissy fit. He saw the holy temple defiled by the animals roaming about and the money changers cheating the people, and he started overturning tables and driving the wrongdoers out. (Notice that his anger motivates him to take action, not become sullen or bitter.)
Some things are worth being angry about. Others aren’t. Child abuse, sex trafficking, racism, yes. My washing machine breaking, my child having an “accident” on the floor, the computer shutting down while I’m mid-sentence, no.
Smile. I had a friend in grad school who was a bit of a loose cannon. He’d been around the block more than a few times:
- had post traumatic stress syndrome from being in the Vietnam War,
- been to jail for DUI,
- recovered from alcoholism,
- been divorced twice,
- been to the edge and back.
He was as rough as sandpaper around the edges, smoked like a chimney stack, and wasn’t the sort of person I’d ever nominated as “Most Likely to be Laura’s Friend.” Yet when this guy flashed his mega-watt smile—tobacco-stained teeth and all—he made you smile back. If you felt alone in the world before that, you suddenly weren’t anymore. You knew you had someone who was in your corner, ready to fight for you, even if he ended up in jail again.
Another example. I’ve got church friends who have been married for several decades. When Alice and Ralph walk into church hand-in-hand, they’re both smiling. They look like newlyweds fresh from their honeymoon.
Sadly, that’s unusual for me to see with couples who have been married for a long time. (Go look at the anniversary photo in the newspaper. How many of those couples look really and truly delighted to be married to each other?)
So when I see Alice and Ralph smiling like that, it encourages me in my own marriage.
Learn to forgive. Nothing destroys happiness like clinging to toxic anger, bitterness and rage. You might still feel the hurt. You might never reconcile with the person, depending on the nature of the offense and the relationship. It might take a long time to process the pain and for healing to take place. But forgiveness helps bring healing to a wounded heart.
So that’s my short list of thing I need to learn. What’s on your list?