Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

June 22, 2021

No listening; no love

by Rod Smith

“Is every intimate relationship worth fighting for? How do you know when to throw in the towel?” 

After much first-hand experience of couples beating incredible odds (addictions, violence, serial infidelity) to revitalize devastated relationships I’m going to say YES. It is probably worth the fight. There are some essential pointers that suggest ending it may be inevitable.

Both people have to be almost equally in the battle. “Almost” because one person is inevitably more motivated than the other. It just cannot stay that way if it’s to survive and thrive. Both people have to acknowledge individual roles in the breakdown. I have no urge to “blame the victim” but it takes at least two to tangle (and tango).

Both people have to acknowledge a commitment to “on-going” truth. I don’t believe every detail of an infidelity ought be divulged but I do believe a couple can commit to “truth-from-here-on” agreement. Affairs (emotional, sexual, soul-mates-only) must end if the couple is to survive and thrive. Both people have to be willing to learn to HEAR the other person – no matter how long or painful the process. No listening; no love.

June 20, 2021

Facing Goliath

by Rod Smith

Given that it is Father’s Day I have to tell you my father was a David who had his fair share of Goliaths. He had many in all shapes and sizes and spread over many years. I’d suggest being fatherless from birth was a Goliath of sorts. I’d suggest the Second World War must have felt much like a Goliath to much of the world and to a 15-year-old boy going off to war before even needing to shave. I guess entering the Indian Ocean off a burning and sinking destroyer to find safety was certainly a frightening encounter. Floating in the ocean, protected from sharks by the oil that has surfaced from the sinking ship is not usually the safe option. Floating for hours – about 30 in all – in oil and debri and being fried in the day in the scorching sun and freezing in the night while hoping for rescue may well qualify as a Goliath. Dad said the men in the water sang “Nearer My God To Thee” and “From Sinking Sands He Lifted Me” and “Abide With Me” a lot. But, he did it. He did it all. My dad was a long way from perfect but I have noticed he was much more imperfect when I was younger than he is now. I guess he improved over time.

June 17, 2021

Did you know my dad?

by Rod Smith

Did you know my dad? He owned the tearoom near the top of Blackburn Road next to the Dutch Reformed Church, up the road from Parkhill soccer club. You may or not have known him by name but you may have been a woman in need of milk for her baby. He would have given it to you under the counter as if defying the boss which was, of course, himself. When you tried to pay he may have whispered “take the milk my dear. No baby should go without food. Keep your money for something else the baby needs.” Or, you may have wandered into the shop and said you had no place to stay for a while and he may have said “we have plenty of room here” and given you a bed for a week, a month, even longer. Perhaps you knew him because you faced addiction to alcohol and he was your Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and he said “just for today” to you and told you he’d decided he’d no longer drink “just for today” until his pledge spanned decades of sobriety. Did you know my dad? You may not have known him by name but perhaps you went to his tearoom where he served bread, milk, kindness and good humor and wrapped the goods with the feeling that you were known, that you belonged.

June 15, 2021

Day 3

by Rod Smith

I will resist the appealing urge to mind the business of others, to spread gossip, subtle or gross, and to take on burdens that have already proven too much for people more equipped, wiser, stronger than I.

June 15, 2021

Father’s Day Gifts?

by Rod Smith

Your dad, on Father’s Day, probably wants very little from you. It’s likely he will be satisfied with a simple card, a brief note, and the words “thank you, I love you.”

The real gift you’re offering to your dad on Father’s Day is if you are living well, loving deeply, using your skills, your talents for the good of all.

That’s the gift he’s really looking for.

He’s not looking for you to give him something; he wants you to give the world something.

Offer the world about you your integrity, and you’re giving your dad a gift. Give to the poor, the lonely, comfort the mourning, put your arm over the shoulder of your own son or daughter, and you’re giving your dad an invaluable gift.

Your dad is probably not looking for what you can do for him; he’s looking at how you’re living amongst others.

That’s the real gift for Father’s Day. It’s not the cufflinks, or the new tie, or another pair of comfortable socks, as wonderful as those things might be.

Your dad is looking for how you are living your life to its full potential.

That’s the gift he really wants.

June 14, 2021

Tuesday

by Rod Smith

Day 2: I will show up but not at the expense of others. I will speak up but not silence others. I will stand up but not if it means pushing others over. There’s room and space and roles for us all. I’m designed for hard work. I will do my part.

June 14, 2021

Monday

by Rod Smith

Day 1: I am loved and capable of love. I have enough of everything I need. Generosity is in my design. I will offer grace and space to others and return to no one evil for evil. I will share even when others may want to take and dominate.

June 12, 2021

How to know you’re growing

by Rod Smith

How to know you’re growing: Old hurts, painful memories, become less powerful in their capacity to shape your life. Some members of your family say you are meddling, others call you selfish, when all you want is to occupy the driver’s seat of your life. As you have assumed appropriate responsibility for yourself you’ve experienced deeper connection with others but now it’s by choice, not obligation or guilt. You have new insights into what you can and cannot control, can and cannot change. To your surprise you have stopped thinking, feeling, speaking on behalf of other adults, all of whom do not need your help to accomplish these fundamental adult human callings. You resist the urge to tell others what they need, should or must do, think or believe. You are learning to stop asking questions of others, even of God, that you have not diligently first tried to answer. The difference between “I” and “we” and the appropriate use of each is getting clearer and clearer. You are undergoing a renaissance and you are almost fearful at the prospect of discovering the truth of what it means to be wonderfully made. Insights into who you are created to be fill you with feelings of wonder and humility.

June 10, 2021

Fundamentals

by Rod Smith

I can tell from my mail that it’s time to go back to fundamentals

  • Love and control cannot coexist in the same relationship. It’s one or the other. Choose.
  • Forgiveness is not for the other, the offender, the one who has done the hurting. It is for the one who is forgiving. Resentment and bitterness hurt the person offering them hospitality.
  • All behavior has meaning. Hurt people hurt people. There are reasons people are unkind. This does not mean you have to put up with it. It does mean that you can have some understanding and appreciate that the person who goes about hurting others is probably in greater pain than he or she is able to inflict.
  • Listening to others, hearing their stories, is usually a good idea. This is especially so if you regard others as having something valuable to teach you.
  • Important or necessary conversations between (and among) people only “take” or “work” if all parties are ready for the conversation. People are really good at looking like they are listening, even agreeing. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are being heard. Physical presence is no assurance that someone is listening.
  • If a relationship is void of respect, equality and mutuality, it is not worth pursuing. Not now, not ever.
June 9, 2021

Friends

by Rod Smith

“With him, life was routine: without him life was unbearable,” says preteen Jean Louise Finch or “Scout” in Harper Lee’s novel “To kill a Mockingbird.” Scout is describing her crush on Dill, a boy around her own age. Dill visits for summers and over several summers they form a beautiful, unusual friendship that is severely tested by unfolding events involving the Finch family.

I love Scout’s simple description of love and friendship. I share my life with several people with whom life is routine. There’s no performance required. There’s no list of unmet expectations. There’s no need to be on duty, to walk on proverbial egg-shells.

With such people I can just go about my business with them by my side, or not. Day-to-day routines gather meaning, gather greater meaning, because they are done for and often with someone who appreciates them no matter how routine the acts may be. “Friend,” I believe, is the greatest title we can offer another and the greatest role we can occupy for another. When we’re somebody’s friend we’re offering the highest privilege we can offer with our lives. May your life be filled with people with whom life is “routine.”