Get to Know, Like...Really Know, The Ones You Love
I have a younger sister who is absolutely amazing. She is so much of what I am not, and pushes me to be better. But for years, I learned nothing from her because I assumed familiarity with her personhood. We are not even three years apart in age, with the same parents, and grew up in the same household which led me to believe that we were, of course, the same person! FALSE.
She would visit me in Chicago, and I’d have a laundry list of things for us to do together for fun--friends to meet, parties to attend, lounges to visit. We look very much alike, and I would assume we would share clothes and go have an amazing time all weekend. Every time we tried, it was a disaster. She would agree to go along with my plans, then sit miserably or try to muster up enthusiasm to talk to all of my sisterfriends and associates. I would leave upset, and she would be exhausted. I could NOT, for THE LIFE OF ME, figure out why this kept happening! What I could not see that was was staring me in the face was the fact that we were, literally, lost in translation.
I had lost all curiosity of who she was and was imposing my identity on her. To be frank, I may not have ever truly been curious. I didn’t ask “why does it seem to bother you when…”, “what does it mean when you…” “when you say this, is it because…”. I’m not proud to say it, but I asked nothing! In my mind, knowing each other our entire lives meant that I was qualified to KNOW her. Without caveat or her support. I knew the intimacy of getting to know a potential romantic partner but had never directed the same energy toward her or even my sisterfriends.
Years passed and as I prayed to God for wisdom and direction in my life, He illuminated the space where my sister and I were. I was able to learn, with her support, the spaces where we differ, and how my assumptions were making her feel that she was not affirmed. We began the process of getting to know one another, and it was so incredibly exciting and beautiful!
While it can be uncomfortable to begin to question how deeply we know our tribe, it’s healthy to constantly interrogate what you THINK you know, and push yourself to remain curious about those closest to you. Part of love is respecting the autonomy of another individual to grow, change, and develop. Exercising this muscle, and loving unconditionally in the face of difference requires us to remain positive in the face of changing family and friend dynamics.
No matter how surprising the actions you perceive your loved one to be taking, seek understanding as you welcome dialogue with them. This is different that raking them over the, proverbial, coals, and is an authentic way of relating that if done well, will leave you both feeling loved and appreciated even if not fully understood. Radical changes in peoples’ behavior and thought are often also a reaction to pain, so ask productive, intentional questions.
With Easter this weekend, many of us will find ourselves back again (physically or as we reminisce) to family homes, having conversations that stun us and leave us wondering “who are you????” as we talk to mothers, aunts, cousins, and friends.
Seek to find out at what point your loved one changed their mind. Or were they always unknown to you and you didn’t allow yourself the room to notice? What were the catalytic moments when their perspective shifted? Was it pain that caused their decisions? Do they feel heard? What experiences have they had that surprised you? Remember that even if their experience was parallel (or even identical) to yours, they have the right to their reaction. Your truth is not the only truth, and neither is theirs. Let love be your guide as you connect with your people this weekend! Come back and share how that went!