Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

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. 

August 7, 2020

I’ve seen women……

by Rod Smith

Women shortchange themselves when and if they believe they need a man or children to be made whole.

I see them treating love as the complete sacrifice of self, putting everyone and everything else first, at gross personal expense, apparently thinking this is what love is.

I’ve seen them lose self definition, morph opinions, thoughts, desires to fit in with others.

Over time, they forget it’s possible and acceptable to have a unique thought or opinion. Some finding fear in the very idea.

I see women accommodating disrespect, putting up with unwanted language, actions, and even sex they don’t want, as if this is somehow what is within the calling of a woman.

I’ve known women ignore their sane inner-voice, and ignore it for years, or until the children are older, or until, until, and until…. and then it never happens.

And, I’ve seen it in every culture and sub-culture – in the most “advanced” and the most “disadvantaged” nations – where I’ve been privileged to visit and where I’ve been invited to preach and teach.

Identifying these patterns is the easy part.

I’ve also seen women make incredible changes.

I’ve seen women begin alone, within a secret place in the heart or soul, and find and develop a voice and use it in small ways, test the waters of change.

Then I’ve seen them go deeper, deeper, and deeper and find and express voice and stand ground and speak up and refuse to cooperate with the controlling demands of petty partners until everything changes and they live the full and complete lives we are all called to live.

August 5, 2020

Seen any poor parenting recently?

by Rod Smith

It’s easy to judge what appears to be poor parenting: the mother who can’t let go, the dad who can’t say no to a three-year-old, the elderly parent who gets scammed by an adult son or daughter, and on and on and on…..

I’d suggest some caution.

You probably have little idea of what the family has endured to deliver them to this point. What you observe has history, and usually profound history, and the most powerful forces may predate the participants by generations who may themselves be unaware of the generational tides giving rise to the behavior.

We are much, much more than walking catalogs of good and poor choices, of cause and effect and linear simplicity.

When it comes to our families, especially our children, we embody astounding complexity much of which loads our behavior and can steer our reactions.

Of course things are better for all when we are rational and responsive and “responsible” but parenting stirs the primordial being within and he/she is often far from reasonable.

Off-spring, of all ages, usually have inordinate power over parents. They have our number and know our hot buttons. They know we usually ache when they do. They know we have to learn to resist involving ourselves in things that are none of our business.

What you are observing is people on a tight-rope of love, compassion, dreams, desires, successes, heartaches, and failures. Rational behavior, especially to the outside observer, is not always that easy.

The parent is simultaneously trying to enjoy the present, while hoping for the future, and scaling the walls of the past.

Many a parent was never reared with any plan, skill, or imagination. He or she simply “got older” and now, in trying to do better for his or her children, and is fighting battles to which we, the critics, may be absolutely blind.

August 2, 2020

Rage, the quiet kind

by Rod Smith

Some people have “quiet rage.”

They are usually very controlled and accomplished people, known for their ability to cope with stress and difficult circumstances.

But, deep inside, they are regularly seething.

The controlled demeanor hides and buries the agitation.

The façade has dual purposes: it gives others the sense that things are fine; it gives the host the idea that things really are under control.

He or she is a person dangerously divided. It creates separation both among others and within the self.

While quiet rage might not impact casual relationships in a meaningful manner it can be very damaging for the host and all who love him or her.

If this observation “rings a bell” for you I’d like to suggest quiet rage is deeply rooted in a few sources: disappointment, the desire to control the often uncontrollable, and in the painful discovery that each of us struggles to live up to our own expectations, never mind the expectations of others.

Quiet rage will only be quiet and cooperate for a season. Then, it grows. It wants out. It manifests in overt anger and illnesses. It won’t maintain its silence or its semblance of respectability.

Talk it out before it breaks out, breaks things, and hurts people, yourself included. 

July 26, 2020

Hurt? Insulted?

by Rod Smith

If you have been hurt, insulted, directly or indirectly engage in a process before you act: 

First forgive. No matter what it is, first forgive. Forgiving is about you, not the other person or people. It is always the best option. It may not be the most logical or your first knee-jerk reaction but it will always be the better option. Knee-jerk reactions are usually what land us in the most trouble. So, forgive first. 

Working on this may take a day or two or even weeks, but ask yourself why exactly what you have experienced is hurting or upsetting you. Aim for a good take, a “whole” perspective. Uncover what is at the core of why this (whatever it is) has touched you in such a way? Why exactly has this (whatever it is) had the power to upset you when parallel circumstances perhaps have not?

After this “work” if it is yet necessary to confront whomever has hurt, insulted you directly or indirectly, take time to think about what life looks like out of their window. Try to see things as they see things. This could take a while.

These steps taken, you are ready to love and grow and be an agent of healing.     

July 23, 2020

On a personal note

by Rod Smith

Yesterday was quite a day.

I had the joy of teaching Bible Study in the morning and then drove to Hagerstown for an eye appointment with Dr. Taylor Walden only to be told what had occurred could be “sight threatening” and needed to be attended to immediately in Indianapolis.

What “occurred” was that at 4pm on Monday of this week it felt and looked as if a hairball or dustball was caught in front of my left eye and was distorting my vision. I could move it around at will by moving my eyes but I could not move it away. I even had a shower to try to wash it away, convinced it was something dangling in front of my eye.

In response to Dr. Walden’s instructions Whit kindly gave up his day and drove me to Indy.

After three “stations” of preparation and tests I was finally administered laser surgery in my left eye to “barricade” the tear in the vitreous gel and secure the tear from spreading.

This involved no pain or even discomfort. For those who have not had this is like having your eye intentionally struck by a lightning bolt several times and that is what it looked like as well.

I was pleased to be home and take the dogs for a walk.

Thanks for your love and support.

I am up and running and looking forward to a day of sermon and service preparation given that I am now a day behind.

Dr. Walden (who frequently attends PFNC – often sitting upstairs) could not have been more kind or efficient.

Rod Smith

July 22, 2020

Sobriety and Recovery – what is the difference?

by Rod Smith

A lifelong friend wrote this. I asked for his permission to publish it. He requested anonymity:

There’s a difference between being ‘sober’ and being ‘in recovery’. It’s important to understand that you cannot be cured from addictions. Being sober from addictions means:  Not using, abstaining from mind, mood altering substances like alcohol, drugs, prescription meds. Abstention must be complete. The daily work and struggles revolve around doing all you can to stay in sobriety. It’s a necessary process and the tricks you learn and plans you develop are key in moving into recovery. Being in recovery is different altogether. It begins with sobriety, but recovery is about:

  • Changing behaviour
  • Finding peace and healing
  • Striving to become a better human being, loving yourself
  • Admitting responsibility and giving up the victim role
  • Action and deeds, not talking
  • It isn’t a one-time thing, it’s a lifelong journey
  • A shot at making life changes at work, home, in relationships

Being in recovery offers you a lifelong, wonderful experience giving life your best shot every day.  Life isn’t about not using; it’s about the human experience of living life, with all the ups and downs. Staying sober is a crucial factor for recovery. Recovery is an individual experience of getting better at life.

July 20, 2020

Things that happen gradually

by Rod Smith

Things that happen gradually 

You watch your first-born infant son move through stages until he is crawling then walking and before you can say boo to a goose he’s graduating from university and earning more money than you dreamed of in a first job.

You watch your second born wake in his crib and ferry him around straddled between your wrist and your elbow – perhaps like you’d carry a football  – and the next thing he’s striding back and forth on a football field with dozens of other large young men getting ready for the coming season.

You hear a middle-of-the-night whimper from an adjacent bedroom and the boy is apparently not feeling well and you are both going to be up all night and then the fever subsides and then it is he that is checking on you and texting and calling from his home that he hopes you will have a wonderful day.

There were times you wondered if the boys would ever get along like you hoped brothers would and discover when they do get a full day together they go skateboarding at old haunts and pick up dinners you’d get for them when they were much younger and rejoice that it is all happening without you.

July 19, 2020

Leadership – time for learning new lessons

by Rod Smith

Monday challenge

If you lead anything you’re probably feeling substantial stress. Until now almost all stressful circumstances have arisen from known sources, or were self-perpetuated, or have been in-house predicaments. As difficult as past issues have been you could get your head around the problem and make a plan. 

With COVID19 it’s the vast unknowns, its potential to be so intimately dangerous, that is stressful. COVID19 is challenging our common understanding about leadership and has demanded shifts in how we have traditionally led and exposing the power of unintended consequences for everything from families to governments. 

As a leader you may think you’re crossing over into an unscripted remake and unfinished sequel of Lord of the Flies.

  • Give yourself room to think, permission to be wrong, time for open discussions and reassessments. Anger, authoritarianism, certainty, will not deliver you from this pandemic.
  • Remain, communicative with those whom you love. Don’t let the prevalent cultural and political anxieties divide you. People you love are not the problem.
  • Go quietly. There is already enough noise. Don’t add to it. Learn things about yourself only difficult authentic circumstances can teach. Remember, you can’t learn what you think you already know or if you think everyone else is an idiot. 
July 16, 2020

Fall on your knees, there is only one of you

by Rod Smith

You may have noticed with a sigh of relief or an edge of frustration you are one of a kind. 

There is no one quite like you, not even close. 

Oh your profile may reveal familial similarities, a relative may mistake you for your brother or sister, there may be a striking resemblance to your grandparent when she or he was your age; but you are unique and you know it.

You draw connections, see parallels in ways you know are a little crazy. 

Words, music, aromas, one-liners, associate across decades and you resort to momentary introspective giggles because sharing whatever you just thought or saw or felt would take too long to explain and it would be meaningless to anyone else breathing. 

On top of that your head is full of what ifs, not regrets, but possibilities, hopes, aspirations; most of them not for yourself but for people you love. Periodically you think you’re going to burst with ideas, love, passion, when you sneak a glimpse of how beautiful the people in your life really are and how much talent and life they ferry around everyday.  

There are creeping regrets. You have to fight them off like an invasive species ‘cause they keep trying to ruin the moment.

But, truth is, they earned their place but some, not all, have overstayed their welcome. 

Fall on your knees in thanksgiving.

There is only one of you.