Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

September 16, 2020

What I wanted from my dad

by Rod Smith

I’ve heard these themes – these are not quotations – time and again from young people. The spin varies depending culture and economic status.

I wanted my father to talk with me – not only teach me or tell me what he expected or to tell me his stories from the past that seemed like ancient history to me – but to engage with me.

I wanted a dad, not just a sports coach – although I loved it when he coached me sports.

Even though I was trying to be very masculine and self-sufficient I needed to know my dad had my back.

Sometimes it felt as if my father was really trying to get close to me but that he didn’t know how – like he was afraid of me. I only know that now – I couldn’t see it then.

All I wanted was for my parents to be friends – the divorce didn’t stop the fighting.

When my parents were friends everything was hopeful about life – when they fought, even over the smallest things, it would feel like my life was falling apart.

“The thing I remember the most was when he’d ask my mother to leave the cooking up to him and to me – those are the times I really treasure.” (Actual quotation)

September 10, 2020

The power of forgiveness

by Rod Smith

In our families and among friends and associates it’s never too late to forgive or to ask for forgiveness. It may be difficult. It may hurt our pride. But, it is always possible. 

It’s as practical and near as a phone call, letter, or a face-to-face conversation. 

It may involve something as simple and difficult as a confession or request.

Sometimes, “I was wrong,” or “please forgive me,” or “I am sorry for the things I did to you,” or “how can I make things as right as possible,” are the hardest words to say. It may be as tough to say, “I forgive you” and “I am sorry it has taken me this long.”  

It’s never too large, too consequential, too long ago. It’s never too complicated for a sincere, “I am sorry, please forgive me,” or “I know it’s been a long time and I know you are not expecting this but I forgive you.” 

Forgiveness runs deep. Like water, it seeks the lowest point. Like water can do, it refreshes, feeds, cleanses. Forgiveness frees us up and frees others up. It restores. It renews. It brings back a spring in the step to the one who forgives and the one forgiven. 

It is beautiful, practical, so immediate, often painful, and so life-giving.

September 9, 2020

Take a moment

by Rod Smith

Take a moment to listen to that elderly man holding you up in the queue at the bank (grocery shop, post office) and chat. You may discover that he once ran a large enterprise, traveled the world, employed masses. He’s quite a lot more than someone who, at this moment, appears to be in your way. 

Take a moment to find compassion for the young woman you see alone with her children and who looks like she is at the end of her tether. You may find out she is fighting a few more battles than corralling young children. You may also discover she is fighting powerful illnesses and home circumstances that would be tough even if she were in perfect health.

Take a moment and be patient with that elderly woman who never met a stranger. Give her a little of your time and you will find out that she was married for over five decades and being alone has never gotten any easier. She is used to sharing her news and her life and the brief moment she has with you today may be the only one she has in weeks.    

Take a moment – you never know how powerful it may be for all concerned. 

September 8, 2020

Emotionally healthy people

by Rod Smith

Emotionally healthy people display many of the following strengths: 

They seem able to achieve their personal goals and keep strong relationships. They maintain individuality while embracing others. They don’t get “lost” in love or friendship. They love without invading or possessing. They resist telling others what others need, think, feel, or should do. 

Healthy people avoid siding with some against others. They recognize and refuse to participate in all forms of bullying (subtle and gross). They resist being manipulated into rescuing others, knowing it is usually unhelpful. They spend zero time or energy winning approval or maneuvering in relationships in order to feel loved or to feel powerful.

They appreciate differences in people, seeing no person as “all good” or “all bad.” They can defend their well-considered positions and beliefs without being rigid or defensive. They are open to change, are clear-headed under pressure, and can cope with difficulties without falling apart. They can keep their voice under pressure without confusing thinking and feeling.

They know that emotional health and well-being is not set in stone and can vary from day to day. Therefore, they allow themselves and others room for not-so-good days. On not-so-good days they are aware of the need to be cautious, to do no harm, and to avoid making decisions with lasting impact.  

September 6, 2020


by Rod Smith

Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. Not everyone who is alone is lonely. 

Being around people, even family, does not mean a person cannot be lonely. Being lonely in a crowd is common. 

On rare occasions when I am alone, I really enjoy it. If I am traveling and held up for a few days, or if I choose to self-isolate for a few days I find it very refreshing. But these are periods of choice, of privilege. 

There are people who are literally alone, month in, month out and not as a result of choice. There are people who are deeply enmeshed in families and groups who are wilting in desperate loneliness. 

There is loneliness where there is no significant, trusted, sustained human interaction or deep human connection. Where life is without give-and-take, playfulness, dialogue, or sharing there is loneliness. There is loneliness where the world seems indifferent, when it seems to make no difference whether a person is present or absent. When your life seems to not matter, not to anyone, alone or in a crowd, there is loneliness.

May we be agents of healing when faced with people who are seemingly without friendship and hope.

August 31, 2020

“Little” things that hinder

by Rod Smith

I’m aware these are tough standards, but how else will any of us improve at life and relationships if we don’t take care of the “small” things? 

  • If I retell a story in the presence of someone who was present as a witness and I exaggerate or lie (even in an attempt at humour) the witness knows I am capable of being a false witness even if he or she never lets on.
  • If I gossip even to a willing and eager listener, the listener knows I am capable of gossip and even if he or she never lets on.
  • If I am rude, demanding in a restaurant or the post office or with the cashier at the grocery shop when things don’t go my way I am revealing my true colours. If I treat a stranger in public with disrespect one can only imagine how I treat people who are close to me in private when things do not go my way.
  • If I cheat or lie in seemingly little or unimportant ways, people who witness it, even if they benefit in the immediate from my actions, will know not to trust me in other and unrelated circumstances. 
August 25, 2020


by Rod Smith

“What shall I do with this grief,” she asked, having lost so much, one thing on top of another, enough loss for many people in a life-time.

You shall sit with it. Embrace it. As difficult as that may sound, you will let it do its work.

“What shall I do with the pain, the gaping hole in my chest, a wound in my soul, my very being?”

You will go into survival-mode, operate on automatic, auto-pilot, if you can operate at all. Then, you will arrange your life around it, at least for a while.

“But, I do not want this, the anguish, this disorientation.”

Nobody does. It is always an uninvited guest. It barges in without notice, without invitation. It is no respecter of persons.

“You are not being much help.”

Grief will do its work and ultimately you will find it in you to respond. The person within you, yes, the one who is, and who feels overwhelmed, drowned in sorrow, will be shaped by the losses and will emerge to be even more beautiful than you already are.

You will know and sense things and gain remarkable intuition and offer presence for others in ways you could never have imagined.

Despite it being a path that you’d never have chosen, you will use it well.

August 17, 2020

Four Fundamentals About Relationships

by Rod Smith
  • Neither you nor I can bring change to a relationship we are not part of or willing to participate in. Third party or arm’s length involvement will always be regarded as interference and will find resistance.
  • Neither you nor I will successfully hope or will all the change we may want to come to another (spouse, son, in-law, friend) until they, themselves, will and want that change we are wasting our energies. Pressure will meet resistance and often promote the very opposite of what we are wanting and hoping at the outset.  
  • If we feed it, it will grow; if we enable it, it will grow; if we accommodate it, it will grow; if we allow it, it will grow. Choosing our responses to “it” – whatever it is, ought to be carefully considered. This broad principle works for good and for ill, the positives and the negatives in our lives. 
  • Like it or not, you and I send out signals to others, some really strong, some really subtle, so, take a little time to evaluate what those signals may be. You and I may need some independent help to read and discern what we are emitting. This somewhat explains why similar relationship dilemmas seem to repeatedly face the same people.
August 10, 2020

Agents of Grace

by Rod Smith

Grace is easier to speak, write, and preach about than it is to embody. 

But, nonetheless, it is essential for healthy living. It’s crucial for the building of strong families, the well-being of places of worship, and the prosperity of healthy businesses, schools, hospitals, and everywhere people work together.

Grace helps me resist the need to be right or rewarded. It helps me resist the desire for pay-back or revenge. It assists me to forgive, turn the page, move on, let go. It allows me to see that others are as fallible and I am. Grace empowers me to live with an open hand rather than a clenched fist. When operating in the power of divine grace I can forgive others, even if forgiveness is not requested or deserved. I can write off debts, even offering gifts in place of the repayment of the debt.

At its best a man or woman of grace seeks to enrich the lives of those who seek to hurt or damage him or her. 

Grace is evidence of divine intervention, growth, goodness, and spiritual maturity

It remains easier to write, preach, and argue about grace than it is to extend it at every turn, which, of course, is all the more reason to try.

August 8, 2020

A miraculous life

by Rod Smith

You have a group of friends that has remained somewhat constant for years. Conversations pick up where they left off. Worn out jokes and the retelling of pivotal events are predictable and enjoyable. Even though well-established, the group welcomes new people. These are people who have your back and you know it.

You enjoy deep affection for the children of your closest friends whom you have observed from birth and who are now adults and some are now parents themselves. You have their backs even though you never have to say it.

You give regularly to the support of organizations and individuals you trust.

You love your work and give it your all. You are careful to not allow it to be all-consuming.  

You witness and you participate in the miracle of brave love as you engage in daily duties like having a job and doing the laundry and unpacking the groceries. You know your friends are similarly engaged in equally miraculous lives. 

You know and you enjoy your neighbors. It’s mutual. You keep up with each other’s lives without living in each other’s pockets. You watch out for each other and trade in trust, good humour,  and respect.