I was sitting at my MOPS table when another mom called me out. Though I didn’t like it, I knew she was right. I was headed into a visit where I was assuming the worst was going to go down.
“Maybe you just need to walk into this believing the best in her,” she said.
Easy for this fellow mom to say right? She didn’t know the patterns that had been established over the years, the hurtful words that had been spoken, how uncomfortable the next week was going to be.
But I thought a change in perspective was worth a try, (I was willing to do my part to make things go better) so I did a little attitude adjustment and our visit was the best we’d had in years.
Here’s the truth, we live life as imperfect women, bumping up against other imperfect people. All while trying to mother tiny imperfect humans who like to cause sleep deprivation (ours) and throw tantrums on a regular basis (which really helps in our patience and loving response departments). This relationship stuff is rarely neat and tidy. The world is a rough place and when possible we need to cut each other a break, to believe the best in each other and for each other.
In a time of year when we are often in close proximity with people, either by choice or forced reunion, we may easily fall into old patterns. Here’s what I know: we can’t control how others behave, but we can always control how we behave. It may not take long for your brother to say something that takes you right back to your childhood and you hear the words, “He always…” or “He never….” start to run through your head. Your fuse will be longer if you start the reconnection choosing to believe the best in him. Give him time to understand you as an adult. Don’t give him more fodder to treat you like the baby of the family (because you’re acting like one.)
If it feels hard to make that mental adjustment of believing the best in someone, try these tricks:
- Make a list of everything you appreciate about that person. When difficult, get creative, if nothing else the ridiculous items on the list will make you laugh.
- Make a list of all of the concerns the other person is bringing into the holiday season. This will help you remember the stress the other person is currently carrying and grow your empathy.
- Recruit a team to help you love others well. Ask your husband (or your sister or your mom, anyone who can read you) to give you a signal when you are starting to roll into old patterns. Code phrases like, “Marcie just texted me” can clue you in to reel it in.
- Pray for the other person. God has a way of making that heart adjustment on our behalf when we ask him to.
- Remember the imperfect person formula that’s playing out. Don’t expect perfection from someone who can’t offer it. Unrealistic expectations of others (and ourselves) need to be squashed.
- Try to have fun together. If we take the heavy out of the relational equation we are often reminded about what we love, even like, about the person in front of us.
Sometimes it’s just a mental recalibration, a choosing to believe the best in someone, that makes a world of difference in how holiday gatherings go down.
As a mom to four girls, ages 3 to 12, Alexandra Kuykendall’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. She writes to capture the places where motherhood meets everyday life to remember the small, yet significant moments in the midst of the blur. She is the author of The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir , a contributor to this year’s Be you, Bravely, An Experiment in Courage and acts as the Specialty Content Editor for MOPS International. A city girl at heart, she makes her home in the shadow of downtown Denver. You can read more of Alex’s everyday thoughts and connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.