In our many meetings with married men over the years, we discovered a pattern that contributes more to the destruction of a marriage than we realize. It’s called bickering, characterized by nasty digs, one-ups and put-downs delivered in a tone of voice suggesting that the one delivering them is far superior to the one receiving them and expects the latter to acknowledge that fact while on their knees. It begins in the early stages of a relationship with seemingly good-natured little references to what might be called a fault.
Repeated often enough, they become a fault-in-fact and get added to the collection and are soon delivered with gusto. It becomes a competition determining who can make the opponent feel worse, never mind who is right and who is wrong. Sad, because so many couples have failed to realize that all they have to do is STOP, agree to trade all that in on a hug and a smile, and a resolve to put the respect
back into the relationship.
Henri Nouwen has a great way of describing relationships. When two people first meet, one usually reveals something about herself/himself and puts it in the space between, to encourage the other to do the same; this exchange continues, back and forth, until the space between becomes filled with the two qualities that make for a strong relationship, respect and trust. Respect for one another, trust in one another.
That’s the kind of relationship that exists in our caregiving program. When we first meet with someone going through one of life’s trials, we establish that respect and trust by agreeing to talk openly, honestly and completely, assured that whatever is revealed remains in the space between the two of us. Of course, we hope the Creator has been listening in, too, and makes His presence known.
Woody Allen, the famous philosopher, once said, “I don’t believe in afterlife . . . but I’m taking a change of underwear just in case.”
How do you feel about afterlife? Do you think your soul will go wafting through space and finally meet up with St. Peter? Or do you think your soul might stay right here, just out of reach and invisible, of course, but connected, connected to the family and friends you left behind. Your soul becomes the messenger, from the Creator and to the Creator.
Does that sound crazy?
I used to meet every week for over a year with another old guy, and we would take turns suggesting a topic to talk about. One time, he had been reading about the universe, that there could likely be 400 other planets out there with the same characteristics and natural resources as ours.
We said, “Suppose the Creator was having some fun setting up a competition to see which ones, or maybe which one, could live in peace. Or, at the very least, could live up to his request . . .simply to love him and love one another.
Where do you think we would end up in the competition?
One of the virtues of sculpting is that you can be thinking of something else while your hands are busy creating something that will be cherished for a lifetime. My something else is usually someone else’s problem.