“You’re pretty, you’re beautiful and I love you so much!”
This is my sons daily declaration of love for me. This is his spiel. He speaks these words again and again, eyes fixed and awaiting my response.
Of course I always respond. I scoop him up and smooch him to pieces; I drop what I’m doing and run to him; I hug him, thanking him for his sweet words; and I respond with my daily spiel back at him, “you’re brave and you’re cool and I love YOU so much!”
Whatever my response, there are squeals and warm smiles all around. I’m not even sure what he gets a kick out of the most, expressing his love to me or receiving a response from me.
Now, could you imagine if I didn’t respond? What if, after his daily declaration, I ignored his words and continued chopping my vegetables, clearing away dirty dishes or applying my mascara. What if I completely disregarded his words?
Breaks my heart to even think about ignoring this little man of mine. My love for him is colossal. I would call myself an irresponsible mama; irresponsible with his tender, little-man-sized heart.
But lets look at it from another angle, shall we? What about when the words exchanged between those who love one another are filled with hurt and pain – words strewn amidst a battlefield of conflict – why is it so easy to ignore and disregard one another?
Is not a bold yet distressed word that communicates pain an equal expression of love for another as an effortless word of affirmation?
I would rather my teenage daughter express an awkward and angry frustration with me than isolate herself in her room, ignoring my knock on her door and giving me the silent treatment.
I would rather my husband speak an absolutely insensitive response regarding my ridiculous behavior, than to have him hold it in, and allow it to grow into resentment.
What if, in our unconditional love, we could give permission to those we love, to express their anger, pain, or worry without fear of rejection, silent treatment or cold-shoulder from us?
In relationships, we all posses the ability to respond to one another, but its in our capability – the action of responding – that demonstrates our measure of love in that relationship.
Being responsible enough to hold someones heart means we must be trustworthy, accountable and attentive to one another not just during good times, but also in tough times.
I’m guilty of this. Minutes after a heated argument, my husband walks up behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist saying “I love you“, I mumble a quiet, “love ya too” and pull away. I’m thinking: too soon, just give me 10 more minutes of cold shoulder.
It’s too easy to not respond at all. One small effortless restraint of engaging in communication and poof – instant power. And unlike a physical blow to the face, there is no outward evidence of wrong doing, so clearly there are no grounds for taking full responsibility for this behavior.
Unless…we choose to live as responsible people.
To be responsible means to be answerable and accountable for something under your care. With great responsibility comes great opportunity. Our longing for deep and intimate relationships must be coupled with a great sense of responsibility for the health and care of those relationships.
Think of conflict as a tennis match: when we respond to it, we are taking a ball of power – which is the ministry of reconciliation – and we are serving it into another’s court. They, in turn, respond and send it back. This ball of power needs to go back and forth, engaging in dialogue and connectivity, to allow fear and anger to be sloughed off enough so that the core, which is the truth, may finally be revealed.
Nobody likes to play with a ball hog. He’s a hoarder of power; that guy who doesn’t pass the basketball to his team mates; continually shooting from the free-throw line. He’s a one-man-show. To him its all about winning – not about playing together.
Having a healthy relationship is not about winning, it’s about leaving the court of conflict together, with love and unity in tact.
Too often we see one another as opposition instead of someone on our team and we overlook the real enemy: division.
We say I’m not getting into the ring with you… and..take your gloves off…because we are looking at conflict as a me against you battle. But sadly, this is just a very clever illusion that we fix our eyes upon while the real battle is well underway.
Until we choose to see one another as allies to the end, we will continue to lose the fight for unity.
Until we choose to live responsibly in our relationships, until we choose to step into the ring with one another, or lace up our gloves and fight alongside one another, we will continue to remain at a disadvantage.
Here’s the treasure: we have a Great Mediator.
He loves those on all “sides” of the offense. He has given us each the grace to face any conflict without fear of condemnation. He has given us each the courage to engage and respond to one another in truth and love; and He has given us each the strength to persevere through pain and vulnerability to reach the other side…reconciliation.
I know grandma taught you…if you ‘aint got nuthin’ nice to say, don’t say nuthin’ at all…but this might just be where the whole silent treatment came from, and it simply doesn’t work. What works is responding; what works is engaging; what works is communication and collaboration.
An equipped woman is not only a responsible woman, but a respond- able woman.