The depth to which my tween and teen seem to despise each other often upsets me. They seem in most cases to deeply desire to be ugly to each other. One asks a question, and the other answers with a tone that speaks “You Idiot” without that even needing to be said. They bicker about just about everything. They KNOW what the other one likes and dislikes (not really, but they like to assert their opinion on it for sure). They NEVER agree on which restaurant we should go to. In other words, a black line is only black if your sibling says that it is blue.
To be sure, I’ve asked around to other parents with multiple kids, and I’ve thankfully learned that my kids are not simply monsters. I’ve learned that I have not totally failed as a parent. The undercurrent of aggravation, irritation, disgust seems to be an almost universal sibling problem. To be totally honest, I vaguely remember this happening in my home between me and my siblings. Maybe. Possibly. My mom is no longer alive to corroberate that, and we just won’t ask my dad.
It’s disconcerting to see how involuntary the dishonorable reactions are. As a mom, I just want to see them getting along. There is little that warms my mother heart more than when my kids are genuinely getting along. We had a lovely taste of this in the summer 2019 when we took them on an old-fashioned road trip (a family of five in a truck that only seats five–no extra space) for ten days. There was some arguing, but for the most part, life was good.
On most days, however, they don’t seem to think about the typical ugliness. Their responses come from a place that shadows any attempt to be honorable or kind. But how are they that different from most of us? Siblings or not, don’t we all have some involuntary ugliness in us?
What is this? How do we stop it?
It’s Not Just Kids
What I know as a communication specialist is that my kids really don’t think about the other person when they respond, and neither do most of us as we go about our days. We all come into every situation preloaded with assumptions and perceptions and expectations and feelings that cause us to find exactly what we are expecting. We come thinking about ourselves and how we feel. We come thinking about what we think is true. It’s truly hard not to, and we end up doing the involuntary ugly because we just can’t get passed what is hold up in our head and heart.
Truth is, we do this in our business lives all too often. That coworker who grates on our nerves. The one we can barely stand to even say hello to. That snotty customer who keeps coming back to treat us horribly. That boss who gives us no credit and causes us to curse under our breath. Should I go on? The targets of our involuntary ugly are potentially quite numerous.
We’re human. Humans have these tendencies. That is no excuse.
So how do we overcome and honor and impact in positive ways in light of the struggle? I want to propose that we first check our heart thermometers. When we are warm, we like people and treat them with respect and honor. When we are cold (and I don’t mean the temperature in the room, although that can impact our mood), we are short and rude and dishonorable. Gauging where we are in every moment is our way to preempt how we might respond and to allow ourselves the chance to craft what happens.
Let’s talk about that cold room for a moment. If you know that it’s going to be excessively cold in a room, you bring a jacket (or at least you should. I can hear my husband commenting on this right now as I’m typing this. I regularly forget a jacket.) You prepare yourself for the situation and the elements that will cause you discomfort. You look into the details and come prepared to overcome.
And this is exactly what we should be doing with our communication. It all begins by checking ourselves and knowing our temperature in the moment. No one else deserves anything other than honor (I know what you’re thinking, and I disagree.), and giving it is going to affect us just as immensely as it does the other person. Consistent attention to your heart in any given situation or with any given person is going to force you to recognize where you can do better.
This is not about putting people up on a pedestal. I am not talking about honoring by giving some sort of award or recognition. We honor by treating others in the way that Jesus expects us to treat other people. It’s a high standard, but we are totally expected to try. Not doing so has dire consequences.
Show Up Better than My Kids
So what is there to learn from my kids??
Show up better!
Be the one who checks the temperature, thinks about the other person, speaks honorably, and changes the narrative. We all have the directive to impact others positively. The question is, Are you willing to take it and bring about positive transformation in every moment?
My kids remind me just about every day how truly hard this is. I am not being flippant here. I know what I’m asking you to do is hard. I’m in it with you. I struggle toward the goal. I feel your pain. But, here’s what I want to tell you.
I am proof that you can show up better. I am proof that you can honor others no matter what. Now, if I can just get my kids to follow my advice 😉
Connie Benoit Sirois
Author | Speaker | Trainer
We are called to love others as ourselves. Our communication gives us continual opportunities to do this. We should never miss a chance to honor others. I’d love for you to read about my mission.
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