Category Archives: relationships

When It’s Hard to Hope

I recently had coffee with a good friend and we discussed marriage, travel, ideas for an upcoming talk I have; the normal things between long-standing friends. We laughed about memories and made plans for us and our spouses to get together. I knew we had connected to discuss a recent loss in my life and yet talking about the normal things felt safe. I wasn’t exactly intentionally avoiding, but I wasn’t just letting things out.

And then she asked how I was doing.

Not good, ok, heart-broken, better… they were all the truth. It depended on the hour and who I was with. It depended on the last time I had cried and what I was doing. Sometimes even I didn’t know how I was doing because sometimes life throws you a curveball that you don’t see coming. And while you want to talk about the struggle, sometimes you want to just talk about the other stuff and pretend your world is normal.

The pain that occurs with loss can be overwhelming. You wrestle with your reality throughout the day and perhaps finally come to terms with it only to go to bed and awaken with the pressure to reaccept it once more. The world continues to turn, to celebrate birthdays and baseball games, to gather and go to school and work. No one seems to pause and take note of your grief. And the heartache makes it hard to move forward with hope.

So, what do we do and where do we turn when heartache makes it hard to hope?

In the days following the news I alluded to, I noticed my dueling desires. I wanted to be alone, watch TV, and not face the rising sun and incoming day. This was alongside my longing to connect, to have someone reach out and ask how I was doing, to gaze into friends lives on social media, and constantly check my email and texts. I wanted to exercise, to run, sweat and push myself. I also wanted to stay in bed and not even move so far as to the living room. I wanted to cry and I longed to laugh. I wanted to give up and I was desperate for hope.

And somedays I didn’t know what I wanted or where to turn. But I did know this: Whatever you do, Linds, keep on going. For it was necessary to be together and necessary to be alone. It was important to laugh and important to cry. It was helpful to push myself physically and helpful to give myself grace. And it was essential to continue on, both continuing routine and creating space to pause. Even amid the truth of it being hard to hope, we have to keep going.

And as we keep going and allowing for the different twists and turns our heart takes us on, we turn to God, to friends, and to those who have walked a similar journey. We let others know of the ache and risk being a burden to allow others the gift of caring for us well. Slowly an hour turns into an afternoon and an afternoon into a day and we realize we are still going. We become less annoyed at the morning and more willing to step out and show up. As we hold onto our basic values and practices, share with others, and allow space for feelings, heartbreak slowly gives way for hope to return.

However, hopes return is not without going through the mess, the feels, the ups and downs, and the risks. Hope is a scary thing. Hope has the potential to let us fall and fall hard. Hope has the ability to leave us embarrassed, hurt, lonely, sad, and wrecked. When it’s hard to hope, we may be tempted to throw in the towel, but little is to be gained from giving in and giving up. Hope, even when it’s hard, must return to propel us on onward.

A life without hope is simply no way to live. We have to have hope. And ultimately, when it is hard to hope we must connect. This may be to others and is most fully with God. Hope in things and outcomes, like all hope, has the potential to leave us heartbroken. Yet hope in something bigger than ourselves allows us to get out of our own disappointment and pain to a hope that sustains. We accept we are not alone, we navigate the pain and sorrow, and we show up to answer the question, “how are you doing?” and we make way for hope once more — because hope embodied does not disappoint.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

Standing On The Sidelines

When we think of morning devotionals, we often think of encouraging words and connections to Scripture to start the day. These reminders of the call to live as we are created and show up as the men and women we want to be help with the outflow in our coming daily interactions. We may remember an idea or phrase, rolling it over in our mind as how to best incorporate or practice it throughout the day. Some of these thoughts become sticky, convicting, or calls to action.

There is a quote in the popular devotional My Upmost for His Highest that does just this. The March 24 reading discusses our role in sharing the gospel and ends with, “You may often see Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it.” It’s sticky and stays around a bit. It’s convicting and hits you in the gut. It’s a call to action, in this case that of inaction. Simply put, it’s an invitation to stand on the sidelines.

And standing on the sidelines is scary. Standing on the sidelines is painful.

Standing on the sidelines is hard.

Parents, bosses, friends, spouses, whatever the relationship, it can be gut-wrenching and beyond aggravating to watch a loved one make poor decisions, run from truth, avoid responsibility or create their own negative consequences. The unknown outcomes that race through your mind and the needless pain that seems avoidable can create an internal tension that seems impossible to tolerate. How do you not jump in, how do you not say something, how do you not share your two-cents? After all, it’s for their benefit!

And yet, to stand on the sidelines when you can take action is sometimes the most faithful, helpful, and effective thing you can do.

As much as we’d like, we can’t change others. Often they do not hear the suggestions we offer if they themselves aren’t asking the questions. This route of offering information can seem helpful, but instead of leading to the outcomes we are hoping for, it often leads to rupture and resentment. Children angry at parents who jump in and don’t let them learn, spouses resentful towards one another as they offer unsolicited input, friends put out by assumptions that their way is always wrong.

So how do we move aside and watch as God grows and teaches and changes the hearts and lives of those we love?

In order to stand on the sidelines, we must examine what is happening in us–both thoughts and emotions–that wants something different. Perhaps it is to avoid painful emotional consequences, receive validation, or simply save time. As we figure out what we are needing, we must learn to take care of these needs ourselves, as best we can, while allowing the other the space to struggle, fail, grow, and learn.

It may mean waiting it out while a child stays up to finish procrastinated homework. It might be sleeping on an airport floor with a spouse who refused travel input. It could be faithfully standing by while watching a friend date someone unhealthy. And instead of adding advice and the “I told you so,” we mindfully choose to remain in quiet prayer, discern the times to speak up, talk to a trusted confidants, set new relational boundaries, or possibly forego a hoped for shared relational experience. And all this while God works and you wait.

The difficulty in allowing others to experience what they need for growth often forces us into discomfort ourselves. But perhaps the most beautiful thing is that we too learn to struggle well as we stand on the sidelines.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

Stubbornness

The idea of stubbornness was recently illustrated to me in an interaction I had with my dog. A few days ago, Stella, my 9-year-old partner in crime, was sitting in my reading chair with me as I was doing some work. She squeezed herself in on my right side, body pushed up against my leg and her head drooping off the front edge of the cushion in an unfortunate manner. In an attempt to help her out and bring her head onto the chair with us, I shifted a bit and gently moved her body back towards me.

As I attempted to move her, she quickly and instinctively growled at me. This 5-pound little dog growled at my audacity to help move and reposition her to a more comfortable spot. She rejected my help and insisted on flopping her head over the edge with a disgruntled sigh.

And I thought about how often we do this in life.

In relationships, and for our own benefit, we must be open to taking feedback from others. Believe it or not, the willingness to hear others may serve to improve our situation. However, while genuinely hoping for someone to look out for our best interests, we sometimes growl in response. If we believe we are being moved, bossed, or feel not in control, we can react, reject, get angry and dig our heels in. Just like Stella, we snarl in our own stubborn way and do what we want, as ineffective and uncomfortable as it may be.

As I became aware of my own tendencies to do this, I gained insight into the areas in my life in which I am most likely to growl in stubbornness. Surprisingly, they are usually areas where I know I need to grow. They are behaviors I want to do differently, feelings I want to hide and avoid, or thoughts I want to change. Being told what to do in these spaces can elicit guilt and shame, even though I would prefer the help, the vulnerability and to show up maturely.

I encourage you to take a moment and mindfully think about your stubbornness and how it presents. It may be an outright growl or perhaps it is an eye roll, sigh, and dismissive response. Maybe you get defensive to hide your feelings or deny to avoid insecurity. Whatever your version of growling might be, how would you feel differently about yourself if you allowed others to speak into your life? How would it be to receive feedback from others even if it is something you already know about yourself? How might it improve your daily happiness and the relationship if you were open and willing?

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

If you recognize areas you want to grow in, reach out to me today!

The Counter-Intuitiveness of Choice

“She can’t do that…”

“He has to understand that…”

“He can’t say that…”

“She has to change that…”

We’ve all uttered these sentiments, or something in a similar vein, at one time or another. Perhaps we say them as a longing for connection, a desire to be understood, a hope for validation or a plea for respect. We think we are making reasonable requests, yet toward the end goal of getting the other to change, we make demands of his or her behavior.

Simply put, this does not work.

In fact, in hopes of creating the relationship we want with others, we can actually forfeit the relationship with ourself. When we require of others, we handcuff ourselves to their actions rather than choosing for ourselves how to best navigate a situation. We describe all the ways in which we need him or her to behave so that we are ok rather than choosing ways to be more ok ourselves. And therefore, we limit our choices by limiting ourselves.

In no way is this an excuse to stay in unhealthy relationships, rather a call to empowerment in what you can and cannot choose. You can choose what is ok with you and what is not, you can choose how to respond, you can choose how much space and slack is in a relationship. However, you cannot choose what others say to you, how others view you or what they do.

Perhaps this feels unfair, annoying, hopeless or simply wrong. And to some degree it may absolutely be those things. It may drain and exhaust you to choose to bow out, overlook or move on. Yet this is the only way to live un-handcuffed. Grab hold of the counter-intuitive idea that you get the choice only in how to respond and not in how others show up. And grab hold of the great freedom this actually is.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

For more information, contact Lindsay today.

 

Who Said It’s Supposed to be Easy?

One of the biggest lies our culture tells us is that love, if it’s “right,” should be easy. We see Facebook quizzes and online articles reporting specific ways of knowing and promoting easy love. We scan celebrity Instagrams and friends’ Snapchats, all highlighting this “right” sort of love, making it look easy while vacationing or enjoying perfect dinners out.

However. Love is never easy because relationships are never easy. Parent/child, friends, romantic, and professional, none of these relationships present themselves as free from conflict, disagreement, mismatched priorities and generally some form of rupture. Over and over again, love experiences rupture and repair. And needless to say, we generally dislike rupture.

It’s the repair piece that most of us aren’t willing to stay around for and work out.

Steadfast love is what most of us dream about. We long for the one who will overlook our rupture tendencies while he or she never has cause to rupture because of his or her love for us. Obviously if it is “right” we will never have conflicting wants and our other will happily bow out. Two growing and changing people will never find peace in this quest. They must learn and practice repair on a daily basis.

What if instead of avoiding rupture, we aim to be the kind of partners, parents, friends and colleagues who learn to healthily and effectively navigate them? What if we allow our other freedom and offer encouragement while we endure alongside? This is not an invitation to becoming a doormat, rather an invitation to live in relationships that fully experience how to be “right” by learning how to get it wrong and allowing others the same space.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

To discuss your relationships and gain new repair skills, contact Lindsay today.