The only person we can change is ourselves.
This is a reoccurring theme for me lately. I’ve been working with a few survivors that have been dealing with others who have much to say about how they should ‘be’ and what they ‘think’ they should do with their lives. This behavior only makes the survivor want to recoil or retaliate because they are not being heard. And often those that haven’t gone through the same hurt feel as if it should be an easy ‘fix’. This mentality that we should be ‘fixed’ often leaves the survivor feeling dejected, even more unworthy or shameful because they are failing in the ability to heal. The survivor then retaliates and goes on to self-harm in various ways or retreats and lives a hollow existence.
What is encouraging when I do work with a survivor is the chance we get to talk this frustration out. They can’t change us and we can’t change them. I think that is an important fact to remember. Those who have their opinions often are voicing them because they love us and don’t want to see us hurting. This can present itself in many ways and often lead to friction, tension, hostility, etc. Which is unfortunate.
The message I’ve been getting from God lately is to recognize that you can’t change the other person. If we can try to acknowledge what they are feeling and accept that their behavior or response is a certain way then we should expect it until we see them begin to change their behavior or response themselves.
Same for us. For instance, this morning I was talking to Neal, my husband, about something and he responded in a certain way that tends to rub me the wrong way. Usually it would cause a defensive reaction within me where I’d retaliate (I’m not one to retreat…) and try to convince him to see it my way and change his way in order to make me feel better. Ha! Not going to happen. We’ve been together for 20 years, married 17…what makes me think that suddenly he is going to look at me and say, “You know, I finally see it the way you do. I shouldn’t respond that way. I should respond the way you want me to because it makes you feel better.”
Are you laughing out loud? When it’s spelled out for us like that it is easier to see that our desire to want to change someone in order to fit within the confines of our way of thinking is not necessarily realistic. This is why communication is so important. You might not change that person or their point of view but you can listen to them, try to see their side of it and in turn hopefully they’ll do the same for you.
If this back and forth respectful communication isn’t reciprocated then I tell survivors to ‘Bring God in the mix. Pray to yourself to be patient, to listen, and to walk away when needed.’
Neal said what he wanted to say. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before and even though it’s not how I would say it I have come to learn the love that is behind it. That’s why you see so many old couples roll their eyes at their spouses… They have already learned this along the way.
Do you find that people frustrate you a lot because they aren’t communicating they way you think they should? Don’t waste time on them, rather, take that time and look at what could be improved within your own communication skills. Makes me think of this adorable video.