Wednesday, July 03, 2013
Meeting Myself Half Way, or My Own Law of Moses, because I am not yet ready for the higher law of Christ
I tried to do something about this. I began reading more Church talks, listening to podcasts about charity. I began really focusing on my goal to just love the people around me. The only problem was that, when it came to my high-conflict, high-tension circle of loved ones (and I designate them as such not because they are high tension or high conflict, but our relationships were) I just couldn't succeed. Charity was a bridge too far. It was setting the bar hopelessly high and inviting failure.
The other day I was thinking about a wonderful family I knew growing up who treated one another with an abundance of politeness. Not to give too much of in insight into my dysfunction, but as the stupid, surly teen that I was, I looked down on this as inauthentic and even a bit cold. How could they be close when they tiptoed around each other? What I had mistaken as cold politeness, of course, was really a healthy and appropriate respectfulness of one another. (My inability (perhaps disability?) to see this explains far too much.) I decided to try it. I could not have the pure love of Christ for my high conflict circle, particularly when the conflict was turned on, but I could meet myself half way. I could be polite. I had to be.
It has only been a few days. I ordinarily would not write about this, but my high conflict people do not read my blog and I also want to hold myself accountable to continue with my Miss Manners routine. My first day of it was successful beyond my wildest imaginings.
Provoker: "I am not only totally ungrateful for your efforts at this moment, but I am going to storm around you angrily and criticize you in small, annoying ways. I hope we can fight."
Me: "I am pretending you are the lady next door, whom I really like, and you are having a terrible day. It would be really awkward to call you out so I am going to ignore you."
Provoker: "I would like you to feel that you are unwelcome and I think your kids are the worst. Scream."
Me: "In fairness, I might not like my kids if I were not their mom, either. We'll work on it. But again, since you are the neighbor lady and I know you are otherwise a really nice person, I am going to politely apologize and continue to help you."
Provoker: "You aren't doing it right and I want you to leave. Or tell me you hate me."
Me: "Awkward. I better not saying anything and hope this stops."
Provoker: "Thank you."
Me: It feels good not to feel bad. Let's talk about the weather. "Sure is rainy!"
My first realization upon successfully staving off conflict was that I played a major role in the fights. I may have felt provoked, but I certainly fed a fire that otherwise would have died out. I couldn't take refuge in blaming the other person for conflict that could only exist with my participation. And second, I began to have genuinely positive and empathetic feelings for my most high conflict person. It was startling. Brigham witnessed the interaction and praised my efforts to avert a fight, so that felt nice, too, since he is the epitome of a nice, normal, likeable person. I trust his instincts and reactions. How did I end up with someone so healthy?! Thank you, Heavenly Father!
Some people turn the other cheek, or walk two miles when constrained to walk one. I am not ready for that. But if the pleasant feelings I experienced while treating my loved ones like I barely knew them but would have to interact with them socially on a regular basis and in public is any indication, this whole charity thing must be mind blowing and soul expanding. Hopefully I will find out some day. I plan to inch my way to there by way of Emily Post.