So here’s one I am really learning to do better – because when B says or does stuff that hurts me/makes me angry/annoys me, my first instinct is to respond directly to that stuff.
This post was inspired by something that was reported in the news recently: remember that comment by Bono about how it’s okay to sing the song “Shoot the Boer”? Well, here’s the thing; he never said that. Some journalist took what he had said out of context, put a provocative headline to it which further mislead the public and instigated a negative response in people before they had even read the full article. In fact, I’m pretty sure most people only read the headline. Some people got super upset about it, ranting against Bono, even going so far as to throw tickets to the U2 concert into a river. But here’s what most people didn’t do: they didn’t read that headline and say, “What do I know about Bono and his character? What do I know about what he stands for, his political views, his views on justice and peace? Does what I am reading about him in this article gel with all the other stuff I know about him?” I’m pretty sure if they had done that – as B and I did – their first thoughts wouldn’t have been anger and outrage. Rather, they would have gone and read the full article and perhaps even a couple of other articles on the incident and realised that what he was really saying was not what that journalist portrayed him to be saying.
Here’s the point then: so often in reacting to our boyfriends/girlfriends/friends/family/husbands/wives we respond to the thing they have said or the thing they have done instead of responding to their character and who we know them to be. Somehow we separate who they are, from what they do – and we only respond to the latter. We take instant offense to the words they have said instead of stepping back for a minute and asking: “Who is Brett? Who do I know him to be and what is his character? I know that he loves me; I know that he would never intentionally do or say anything that would knowingly hurt me.” Here’s two ways it can go:
Brett: [Says hurtful thing]
Me: [Get’s hurt][Responds in anger][How can you say that? You always…You never][Says hurtful things back]
Brett and Me: [Fight]
Brett: [Says hurtful thing]
Me: [I know Brett loves me. Would he purposefully say something to hurt me? No. So he didn’t mean what he said or I am misinterpreting what he said, or I am taking offense when none was intended, or I haven’t heard what he is really saying or how he is feeling]
My response then is, “Hey, B, that thing you just said really hurt me. This is what I heard when you said that. I know that you love me and wouldn’t intentionally say something to hurt me. What’s going on?”
This isn’t the clearest blog I’ve written; in fact it might be downright confusing. But I guess my final point is this: respond to the person’s character, not what they have said. Always always think the best of the other person. Assume that they would not intentionally hurt you or do stuff to frustrate you. Take as your starting point that they love you. And then measure your response and don’t react out of a place of offense.