There are many conversations that I am afraid to have with a wide variety of people, for various reasons. Some of the people are more important than others. Some of the issues are bigger than others. But my reluctance can show up in almost any instance…
Most often, I am afraid that the relational tension that might result is not worth the potential benefit. Asking someone for a favor. Requesting something that requires more of you than I think you want to give, or even are able to give. Expressing disappointment… or worse, expressing my own anger or frustration. But perhaps the hardest one is bringing you my own sadness or vulnerability.
It isn’t always big things. Often, the little things are more difficult. Would you please remember to buy my Half and Half? Would you please throw your drink cans away before you leave the meeting in my office? Would you please pray for my conversation with one of my kids? These things shouldn’t be big deals, but they often seem daunting. I find myself thinking way too long and hard about whether I should or shouldn’t, will or won’t. What makes this such a big deal?
But the big things are even harder. The bigger the issue, the closer to my heart, then the more dangerous the conversation becomes. The more I “feel” about an issue or situation, the more vulnerable I am. And the more vulnerable I am, the harder it is to be bold or strong or courageous.
People that know me would say that I have some relational strengths. I enter in well to the stories of others. I engage in conversation. I remember most things you share with me that matter. I really do like being with people. And I have a good number of meaningful friendships.
But that doesn’t necessarily equate to relational courage. Some parts of friendship are easier and less threatening than others. But I wonder why…
I recently had an extended conversation with three friends. We were talking about a project which I am involved in and matters a great deal to me. I had strong opinions, but listened well, was respectful, asked questions and engaged with strength… until it came time for me to ask for something that was particularly and personally important to me. I had no reason to fear other than that I might be disappointed. And yet, I felt not only reluctance, but even a sense of shame as I asked for something for me.
I have pondered a great deal and landed with a simple truth. I am fragile, probably too fragile. I want to feel accepted, respected, cared for, to the point that when you disappoint me, it feels like a statement on my worth. If you don’t remember the Half and Half, or throw your drink can away, or want to give me something that feels very important to me, then I am not OK. My value is on the line. My sense of self-worth is threatened.
And then I want to beat myself up that Jesus doesn’t mean more to me, that I still live with insecurity and find too much of my identity in the feedback I get from others.
But the good news is, that once I have finished my little self-critical pity party and turn to Him, He looks at me with a heart of compassion. He longs for me to rest in His love. And He promises me that there will be a day when I will doubt no more….
And I relax…and have a little more courage in my relationships. ☺
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.