Saturday, my teen groused around the house. When my efforts to cheer her didn’t work, certainly that indicated she would rather spend Saturday with anyone but me.
Feeling rejected, I felt tempted to give the silent treatment or unload my hurt with a barbed jab. “When are you going to clean your bedroom?”
“If possible, so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all,” Paul instructed (Romans 12:18 ESV). Yet families, co-workers, and fellow inhabitants of planet Earth have become practiced at the 5 Rs.
- Something happens, is said, done, not said, or not done that results in me feeling rejected.
- Resentful about feeling rejected, I make up a story about why my teen is moody.
- Feeling resentful, I resist relationship with the silent treatment.
- Revenge. My comment about her bedroom would hurt her in the same way I feel she hurt me.
- Repeat. She didn’t engage with me, so I disengage from her, so she distances from my barbs, and the pattern continues.
Rejection, resentment, resistance, revenge, repeat are the five Rs that destroy relationship at home, in the workplace, in community, and in the church.
The moment I feel rejected is opportunity to enter the painful cycle of the 5 Rs or choose grace, joy, and health. The life-giving, life-changing solution comes by sticking to the facts.
Fact: my teen was moody and didn’t respond to actions to cheer her. If I stick to these facts, our relationship continues whole and drama-free.
Yet, we are experts at creating stories in our mind about what facts mean. That story is usually negative, quickly becomes our reality, and we act based on the made-up story as if it were truth.
In some families and churches, members are good at repeating this scenario simply because they have a longer history together to continually practice, or repeat, this destructive cycle. The cycle becomes completely automatic. Think of the relative who plays favorites. The sibling who pouts when he doesn’t get his way. The church member who is perpetually offended with someone in the congregation. This is the foundation for holiday get-togethers where folks gather at the dining table and emotionally abuse one another and have pie.
Practice Makes Permanent
Becoming aware of the active presence of the 5 Rs in our life is the first step to interrupt this destructive pattern. When you find yourself in one of the 5 Rs, thankfully there are actions that can immediately place the relationship back on positive footing.
To nurture healthy relationships
- stick to the facts
- be generous
- don’t take ourselves or others too seriously
Most things people say or do, don’t say, don’t do, rarely has anything to do with us. We’re all doing our best to live together as well as possible. When we find ourselves defensive and judgmental toward another, ask, “What are the facts?”
PeggySue Wells, The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make; Baker Publishing Group 2020.