“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~C.G. Jung
We were visiting my parents’ place in the woods for the weekend. I unlocked the door to the cabin and flipped the switch. The lights didn’t come on, so I began rapidly flipping other switches. I hollered at my husband to come have a look.
He walked to the breaker box in the back. I heard popping as he flipped them on and off. He shouted every so often, “Try the front room!” I reported back, “Nope.”
“Try the bedroom!” I reported back again, “Nope.”
We did this for a few moments, then he came around the corner and said, “It’s a bad breaker. They’ll need an electrician.”
He walked out the front door and bent over to put his boots back on. I asked, “So it’s not something you can fix?”
He looked over his shoulder and replied, “I’m scared of two things—snakes and electricity.”
Then he pulled the leg of his jeans down over his right boot. I jokingly said, “There are only two? Aren’t you scared of me?” and I playfully patted his rear end.
He slid his left boot on, straightened his other pant leg, and stood up. He looked me square in the eye and said without smiling, “Yes, you too, when we aren’t meeting your expectations and doing things the way you like them done.”
The grin slid from my face and my shoulders slumped forward. His feelings were still hurt from my reprimand the night before. I made big sad eyes and dropped the corners of my mouth to look pitiful. He held his ground, “Hey, you poke at me sometimes; I’m just poking you back.”
Indeed, his words were like a hot fire poker rearranging embers in my gut. A flame caught and my fiery ego snidely replied, “I only do it in your best interest.” In his eyes I could see the wall going up. He sensed a lecture coming and turned and walked away.
I stood there alone in my pride. “Yes, I do push my husband and son to be better. So?” But in that moment my heart asked, “Better than what? They are already the very best gifts in my life.”
Some time passed. I decided a walk might clear my head and heal the hurt.
As I stretched, I heard my dad complaining in the distance. He was upset that someone had not done something the way he wanted it done.
He lectured my ten-year-old son about being irresponsible. My son wasn’t the culprit, but he still got a sermon about doing things “the wrong way.”
I assumed my dad had the good intention of teaching my son something, but his rebuke roused the mama bear in me. I growled, “Why is he putting his ridiculous expectations on my cub?”
Before I went to strike, I noticed the burden had an eerie familiarity. I suddenly realized that I was not upset with my dad; I was upset with myself. “That’s how I sound sometimes,” my heart reminded me. And I could see clearly what my husband was poking at.
I closed my eyes and turned my shame toward the sun.
I let my shoulder blades fall gently down my back to open my chest. I took in a deep breath of Leance and held it for a moment. I exhaled guilt. I inhaled forgiveness and let go of control.
In the stillness I acknowledged that I am broken, but I am not beyond repair. I can apologize for expecting my boys to be different than they already beautifully are. And I can take note of how I am hard wired and ask to be transformed by love.
We all have blind spots that impair our relationships. I’ve realized that the best way to gain insight is to pause and really listen when someone shares his or her frustrations with us. If we humble our egos and limit our lips, our eyes will often open wide and so will our hearts.
One way we can wake up to our blind spots is to begin noticing the situations that repeatedly make us mad. A situation won’t give us a charge unless it connects deeply to something inside of us. It’s our work to determine what exactly our anger is connecting to and why.
Once we have noticed what aggravates us, we can look within. “Where in my life do I potentially do something similar to this?”
If disrespect makes you disgruntled, where in your life are you possibly disrespecting yourself or someone else?
If being controlled makes you cross, where in your life are you potentially being overly controlling?
If injustice infuriates you, where in your own life are being even the slightest bit unjust?
Our world-changing work begins by looking within. It is from this place of self-awareness and authenticity that we can begin to truly heal our own hurts and learn to honestly love others just as they are.
Woman with heart image via Shutterstock