“Is the goal in our relationships to be victors or friends? Will we let our insecurities drive us toward winning and control, or will we risk trying to hear and understand each other so that we can act together for mutual good?”
Dr. James C. Petersen
During a global pandemic where science is continuously being understood, where death and liberty are at stake, the result is often divisive. Even in my closest relationships simple conversations, sharing personal opinions goes south real quick. Everyday decisions based on logic and personal concern are currently driving a massive wedge between us. I cannot control others or how they express their thoughts. I do however want to own the responsibility for controlling my half of the conversation. The following is taken from a reflection paper I wrote this week. I have removed the citations for readability, but am including the references below. None of these thoughts are original, however, I am desperately attempting to implement them.
All I do is win
Changing my drive from always needing to win is a lofty one. But my heart is desperate for a better way. An important new beginning is to properly prioritize a list of three desires: loving God first, then my neighbor, and finally myself. Self-improvement can be accomplished, resulting in better communication by maintaining the order of these priorities. Loving God demands that I remember where I find my true self-identity. If I am to live my life loving others with a Kingdom mindset, I must first “fix my eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). If the second priority is to love my neighbor, I cannot simply wait for shame to find me. Shame is an emotional response that cannot be controlled. It must be sought out, understood, and given a well-thought-out response. Loving myself demands self-acceptance of my woundedness and forgiving myself for past responses that have been unhelpful at best and damaging at worst.
True peace from a grateful heart
Communication is a gift from God that allows me to connect in life-giving ways with Him, others, and even myself. I want to learn to be a good steward of my thoughts and how I present them to others. Navigating some conversations right now while maintaining healthy communication feels overwhelming. One simplification is to maintain a heart of gratitude. What flows from my heart will organically set me on the path to follow the will of God while watching out for my neighbor’s best interest and giving myself grace for reactions that need to be adjusted.
My personality leans toward perfectionism. I feel success when I gain the upper hand or feel I have information that stumps someone else. However, I am determined to remind my brain that perfection is not my goal. Self-awareness and kindness to others flowing from a grateful heart equal success. Processing someone else’s words through this lens of perfectionism can feel hopeless and often damages relationships.
I can read every source and study about illness and vaccinations, process this information with logic and conviction, and will still disagree with half the people in my life. I can’t stop COVID. Nor can I see all of our futures and decipher what negative repercussions any vaccine may hold. I can attempt to understand my thoughts, stemming from deep realities of self, and how they may cause unintentional and potentially damaging reactions.
I implore you, dear reader, to join me.
Bibles, E. (2012). ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (Black). Crossway.
Carbonell, M. (2008). How To Solve The People Puzzle. MBS Content. https://mbsdirect.vitalsource.com/books/MBS1878948
Petersen, J. C. (2015). Why Don’t We Listen Better? Communicating & Connecting in Relationships 2nd Edition (Second Edition). Petersen Publications.
Schultze, Q. J., & Badzinski, D. M. (2015). An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication: Building Great Relationships with Faith, Skill, and Virtue in the Age of Social Media (Illustrated ed.). Baker Academic.
Thompson, C. (2015). The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves (1st ed.). IVP Books.