Saturday, March 26, 2011

Being a Both/And Person

Often, during my counseling week, a kind of theme emerges and I find myself talking about the same concept frequently. I touched on this week’s theme briefly in last week’s post – the tendency to “split”, i.e.: seeing things in terms of all good/all bad.

Why might we do this?

I think it reduces our anxiety and makes us feel safe. If we can judge something or someone in this polarized manner then we can accept or reject it/them completely and not have to wrestle with ambiguities and inconsistencies. That big grey area between black and white can make us feel pretty uncomfortable.

The problem is this way of thinking can be a real relationship destroyer. People are not all good or all bad. They are a combination of selfish and selfless, sinful and righteous, kind and thoughtless, -- and they might even seem to change day to day. If we are to be in a successful relationship we are going to have to embrace this reality.

How do we do this?

Well, I suppose we are going to have to work on shifting our way of thinking – from “either/or” and “right/wrong” to “both/and”.

What do I mean by “both/and”?

There are times when Nan doesn’t like me very much. Low levels of sleep produce irritability in me. I’m not very pleasant to be around. However, she can BOTH dislike me AND love me at the same time.  There are times when I am both frustrated or annoyed by a friend and the relationship is actually going quite well overall.

As I said earlier, moving in this direction may increase our level of anxiety at first, but the good news is that having the comfort of close relationships will ultimately promote our feelings of security.

Our ability to accept these paradoxes comes from a level of maturity that is difficult for some to achieve. I have found that the more mature we become spiritually, the more mature emotionally we also become. We are less critical, more forgiving of others weaknesses, more patient, less judgmental and more compassionate. In other words, we can have the mind of Christ.

 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 (The Message)
The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can't receive the gifts of God's Spirit. There's no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God's Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God's Spirit is doing, and can't be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah's question, "Is there anyone around who knows God's Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?" has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ's Spirit.

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