I was on the phone with a client. We were having a phone session on one of these abnormally sunny and beautiful days we’ve been having. Looking outside I began noticing a stark contrast between the beautiful, calm, joy-inspiring weather and the conversation we were having. We were talking about a behavior she was unsatisfied with. She was self-criticizing and self-blaming. It’s a place we all find ourselves in, and it’s definitely not fun to be there.
While she was going on about having “messed up” I caught myself rolling my eyes. Uh oh – that’s something I keep on my handy dandy dashboard to notice and use as an indicator of something going on beneath the surface for me. It helps me realize I’m having a hefty reaction and it’s coming out through my nonverbal cues rather than my interaction with someone. Not so helpful when you’re on a phone session.
Do you ever have that feeling where you know you need to do or say something risky or you’ll regret it later but you really, really don’t want to say or do it? Checking in with myself I was feeling annoyed and frustrated. But I felt scared that that’s what I was feeling. I feel scared right now writing it out to the world. I mean here’s my client getting down on herself and I’m feeling upset with her? Shouldn’t I be the sympathetic ear consoling and encouraging her? OK – I get it and it makes a lot more sense when I write it out, but I confess that in the moment I still want the person I’m talking to to like me, trust me, think I’m nice, etc.
And I’ve got major rules about being angry. Anger’s bad, right? At least that’s what I’ve told myself most of my life. Anger causes people not to like you and getting people to like you means winning at life, right? Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Not so much, right?
I took the risk and spoke my mind, “OK so right now I’m feeling angry. I don’t fully understand it, but that’s what’s going on for me.” And what was I expecting her to do with that? Neither of us really knew what to say so I just kept going, “It really sucks to sit here and listen to you berate yourself. It’s not fun to hear you go on about what’s so bad about you and not share the whole story about who you are.” OK so that started to make a little more sense. I was upset, but it didn’t mean I wanted less of her. I actually wanted MORE. It’s painful to see someone be treated unjustly – especially when it’s by themselves!
Here’s the thing – not a happy ride-into-the-sunset ending. My client was actually offended by my telling her how unsatisfied I felt. I should say she was offended and also saw completely what I meant. Sure she didn’t like me 100% in the moment, but from my experience it felt really gratifying saying a hard truth that most people would keep under wraps. I want to be the person who speaks uncomfortable truths. And even though she, the recipient of a hard truth, didn’t like me in the moment (no one likes hearing that it sucks listening to them) she sure did respect me and make a shift in the moment.
So I’m rewriting my rules on anger, but I’m also learning what it means to find satisfaction in a conversation or a relationship. I didn’t have all the answers in the beginning of our conversation. I knew two things: 1.) I wasn’t feeling satisfied with the direction I was taking things and 2.) I was having a reaction – I was feeling frustrated. So how the heck do we find satisfaction? Express what we’re feeling and find out what the heck we want!
If you’re anything like me then you’re used to keeping how you feel to yourself and maneuvering in relationship and status to get what you want covertly. Heck, I’m a lot more interested in what YOU want when I’m in a conversation than what I want. Isn’t that a little backwards? Shouldn’t we all be responsible for ourselves?
And I’m realizing that we need to express. Even when we don’t ‘have it all figured out’ – in fact, especially when we don’t have it all figured out. That’s how we’re designed. I mean, think about it. God’s omniscient; He knows what you want before you know, and he still wants to hear from you (see Luke 11:5-10)! He cares more about our choice and intention to be in relationship than us having all the pieces to the puzzle put together.
Ask yourself this question: Do you want to be real with other people or do you want to be liked? Sometimes you can’t have both, so which would you choose?
Now think about times in your life you’ve picked either side (we both end up on both sides of the fence). Which was more satisfying? Exhilarating? Freeing? Which led to a life to the full (John 10:10)?