by: Frank Theus, PLPC
toughest people to lead, live with, love…
You know who that person is. He’s the socially awkward single at church who falls asleep during your homily snoring loudly enough for most to hear. They are the neighbors who are polite enough from a distance but who make no effort to approach because, well, you’re not a member of the parish congregation. It’s your sibling who has been labeled by the rest of the family as having “unresolved emotional issues” and s/he chooses to distant themselves from the rest of you because, after all, when s/he is around for more than a couple of days all hell breaks loose. It’s the co-worker who has a knack for being able to drive you and others crazy because of her increasingly bizarre antics in the office. It’s the parent who is wounded and wounding others through their chronic passive-aggressive anger, lying, and substance abuse. It’s that women at your 12-step meeting whose recovery has little to do with program work and more to do with hooking up.
The list could go on-and-on couldn’t it? But, before we close out the list just yet who’s missing in action (MIA) here?
You know who that person is.
Could it be that the “who” that is MIA above might just be you and me?
Wait a minute, Frank. What are you suggesting?
What I’m suggesting is that too often you and I get so caught up in living life and managing our myriad of relationships that we seemingly are unable to slow down enough to look longingly at our own visage in the mirror. In other words it’s easier to recognize the other troublesome folk in your life because, I suspect, it keeps you from facing your own pain and agency.
Remember the list above? Before you can deal well with the “tough people” in your life with authenticity, healthy boundaries, and empathy you must first fully embrace and love the unique person you are.
I’m inviting you to embark on a journey. It’s one that challenges you to leave certainty as you have come to know it. This will require courage because it inevitably calls you to slow down life and to risk exploring your respective storied-life, baggage and all. We all need to do this very thing from time-to-time.
I’m inviting you to embark on a journey.
You see, when you take time to be safely guided into exploring the baggage of life or as one writer described it, “[y]our own dark nights” (DeGroat), you are in effect choosing to take responsibility for how you will now live. It’s learning to exercise a self-care that isn’t selfish because it’s transforming you to grieve the shadows of your “false and private self” (Merton). It’s a change-process that grows deep confidence from within enabling you to say aloud standing in front of the mirror, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be!” And, in time, realize a renewed sense of compassion and hope for self and resilience in living with the toughest of people.
Resources for your consideration and growth:
- Henri J.M. Nouwen. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. New York: Doubleday, 1994.
- Henri J.M. Nouwen. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. New York: Doubleday, 1979.
- Chuck DeGroat. toughest people to love: how to understand, lead, and love the difficult people in your life – including yourself: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014.