“People are not problems to be solved.”
It had been a rough Sunday morning. As you’ve heard me say again and again, getting my daughter ready for church can sometimes be a challenge. It’s a test that I tend to fail, because my own stubborn pride gets in the way.
After finally getting us in the car, I tried to smooth things over. I played some soft music. I asked questions about the church camp she’d just attended. Anything to get us both on the same page.
Finally I decided to try to relate to her from my own experience. I talked about my struggles as an angsty teenager trying to figure out my identity. I told her I could understand what it’s like to be angry or sad as I tried to figure out my place in the world.
No response at all.
I spent the rest of the drive in silence, and spent most of the church service distracted. Though I sang the prayers and went through the motions of the Liturgy, my mind was occupied with trying to solve the puzzle of this moody pre-teen. I was still mentally checked out when our priest began his sermon.
He expounded on the story of Jesus healing a paralytic. In particular he spoke of the scribes who criticized Jesus, revealing the anger in their hearts. Jesus continually dealt with people who questioned or criticized. He did not respond with arguments or accusations. He responded to them with love.
“People are not problems to be solved,” our priest said, snapping me to full attention. “They are people to be loved.”
People want to be loved
As obvious as this sounds, it’s a mistake I make more often than I want to admit. I analyze my family. I try to discern motivations and intent. But treating them as puzzles or problems gets me nowhere. And it certainly isn’t what they need.
None of us seek to be figured out. We want to be understood, sure. But being understood is a byproduct of being heard and treated with love.
Loving others means loving them as they are, not as we wish them to be. We must see them as stars in their own movie, as it were, not as bit players in our own movie.
By trying to “solve” my daughter, I tend to meet with more resistance. When I listen, instead of lecturing, I earn trust. By being present instead of maintaining an intellectual distance, we find common ground.
Tonight we did some stretching exercises together. She insisted that I watch and learn, and I dutifully followed her lead. The smile on her face was in stark contrast to the sullen scowl of this morning. She knows the difference in when I’m trying to solve her, and when I’m just showing her love.
I think I’m beginning to figure her out. But don’t tell her I said so.
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