Open and Curious Relationships


Is not every relationship a winding path?

I would be hesitant to publish this post, if not for the insightful and articulate comments of my regular readers. Honestly, it feels as if I have dropped in as a substitute teacher to a room full of gifted students, who already did the homework and are expectantly waiting for the extra credit work!

For those of us on a spiritual path [and let us be real here–we all are. Some of us know it and are ponying up to the bar. Some of us won’t acknowledge it until the universe has hit us upside the back of the head for the twelfth or fourteenth time.] So- for those of us on the spiritual path-we want to maximize the opportunity and minimize the agony. I have for you all just one instruction:

Remain open and curious in your relationships. Ask yourself, “Is this my work? Does this work belong to the other person?”

And just so you know, the first response for almost all of us is, “This is not my issue/work/problem! This belongs to that other person who is ignorant/lazy/wounded!”

So ask yourself again, with all the kindness you can muster: “Is this my work? Is this their work?”

Signs that the work belongs to you: you have a history of multiple divorces, exclusion (i.e. you will not visit with or go to the home of a blood family member*) or that whatever is wrong in your life is “because of” other people.

Another sign that the work belongs to you-this same thing has happened multiple times in your life. Different flavors, same issue.

Signs that the work does not belong to you-Whatever was said about you makes you raise an eyebrow, say “Say What?” or giggle inappropriately during the finance committee meeting. If any relative will not set foot in your home, that is a sign that it is not your work. [Again certain caveats apply-are there legal actions? Religious restrictions? Etc.]

And let’s pay attention to encouragement vs. shaming as motivations. When babies are learning to walk, we encourage them. We get down to their eye level, we hold out our hands. We remove dangerous objects from the rooms they will be learning to walk in. We do not scold them each time they lose their balance and sit on their bottoms!

One of my children was ashamed that his first grade math sheets [you know, you’ve seen these: 1+1+2, 2+2=4, 1+3=4] had erased pencil mistakes on them. Hooie! First grade math sheets! In pencil! Mistakes!

You would think this was not a problem, but it was for this young man. And I spent several months working with him on the concepts of competence, responsibility, and that childhood was a time/space for play/inquiry.

So: again, to review when you have relationships that are causing you pain: ask yourself, “Is this my issue?” “Does this work belong to the person that I have conflict with?”

I do not want to give false hopes. Humans can be difficult. But in my own family, I have seen, through patience and concern, that a person that would not cross the doorstep of her son’s home, now goes there every Sunday night for dinner. [credit to her son and daughter in law.]

*Just want to point out that some people have lived through terrible, toxic family situations. If this is you, it is not your job to rescue and heal all of your relatives. Again, the most important part of this work is the question, “Is this my issue? Does this issue belong to the people I am interacting with?”

And to all of my beloved readers: Be embraced by the goodness that loves you.

5 thoughts on “Open and Curious Relationships

  1. Lou Phillips says:

    I’ve been fortunate that there were few toxic relationships in my family, and even within the larger clan. I learned most of my lessons from the many healthy relationships within the large extended family, as well as learning – from the cantankerous few – where the dangers in relationships lie. One important lesson – never lend money. If I have it to spare, I give the gift, saying pay it forward when you have it to give. If not I just say no, I’m sorry I can’t spare it; is there any other way I can help. This decision has averted many possible bad feelings. I don’t resent anyone I’ve given money to, and no one feels guilty about not having to pay back a gift.


  2. Priscilla Bettis says:

    This is an important issue. You posed the perfect questions to figure it out, too, especially, Is whatever wrong in your life “because of” other people? Lou Phillips’ comment is wise, too, about not lending money. Just give a gift of money or ask for another way to help, but lending too often leads to resentment and hurt feelings. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

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