Here’s a simple exercise to practice love. Specifically…
- How to love others.
- How to love your loved ones.
- How to love yourself.
So, in a way, this is about kids. An upcoming weekly letter is going to be about what we do with our kids while we deconstruct. But for today I want to talk about another issue. One of the most challenging things in my life has been raising children. Lisa and I have three. They are 27, 25 and 21 now, but it was hard work. I used to think that once they reached 18 or so and left home that parenting would be over. Boy was I wrong! In fact, the parenting gets harder because their problems are bigger. We worry more about them now than when they were teens. And believe me, parenting them through their teens was no piece of cake!
I was educated and trained as a pastor. I took tons of counseling courses and had years of counseling experience. I think I’m a good counselor. I’m empathic. I’m very nonjudgmental. I believe I have some wisdom. I’m a great listener. I’m gracious. I’m an excellent validator and encourager. Also, as you can notice, I’m not ashamed to own these qualities. In fact, I think counselors are people trained in being a good, healthy, functional human being. It is natural to be a good listener, gracious and encouraging. It shouldn’t require special skills. This is how I endeavor to love others. I relinquish control.
LOVING OUR LOVED ONES:
However, when it comes to parenting our children through difficult times, my empathic and gracious qualities can fly out the window pretty quickly! For some reason, when it comes to our kids, I lose perspective. Things become urgent! I see the dangers of their possible choices and the array of possible consequences to their mistakes. In a word, with my kids, I can tend to freak out. I can hear them saying, as they often have, “Dad! Calm the fuck down! Everything’s going to be okay. Geeeeeeez!” I relinquish of control.
So I now have a strategy. When I’m dealing with my children, I imagine them as just normal young adults who are my clients. I treat them as if they aren’t my children, but just regular adults I’m counseling. Suddenly, when one of my kids is going through a crisis, all my great counseling skills come into play. I listen. I let them talk. I don’t judge. I don’t try to instruct or give advice. In a word, I don’t freak out. I’ll admit, there is the parent-part of me that is deep down inside screaming to be released, but I keep it locked in the basement of my heart. Maybe Lisa and I at another time will get down and dirty honest and share our freak-outs with each other. But with our kids… no! It’s making us better parents. We relinquish control.
Now, I’ve taken this strategy even further. How? By applying it to myself! When I’m going through a crisis of my own, or when I look back over my life at the choices I’ve made and the directions I’ve taken, I used to be quite hard on myself. I am my own worse critic! I can be very judgmental with myself. Some of you who know me well enough know this about me. Even last week a friend of mine said to me about the changes I am implementing on The Lasting Supper: “Don’t look at the changes as mistakes. Consider them learning moments! They are developments in the right direction.” He was right. I needed to hear that nonjudgmental word about myself. I sometimes forget to be my own best counselor and apply my good counseling and coaching skills to myself. I am where I am today because of everywhere I’ve been before. Sure I’ve made mistakes. Sure I’ve had terrible experiences. Sure I’ve taken wrong turns. But here I am exactly where I’m supposed to be right now! I relinquish control.
When I read your stories on The Lasting Supper (the main site or in our Facebook group), I am amazed at your ability to listen graciously to one another. You are all such good listeners. You all seem like good counselors. You are people I feel safe sharing my story with. So I just want to encourage you to apply those same skills to yourself. They call these “soft skills” because they require you to be soft with yourself.
Try it with others.
Try it with your loved ones.
Try it with yourself!
Much love to you guys!
Peace on your path.