Lessons Learned

I have been thinking lately about different lessons I've learned this year.

I've always been a very expressive person by nature. I am a born communicator and a relater. I want to understand and be understood. I am terribly uncomfortable with being misunderstood. And I have always over-explained myself to far too many people in my attempt to resolve misunderstandings or misjudgments. Many times I have pursued communication long after it was obviously futile; always thinking I can reach the person I'm pursuing if I can just hang in there long enough.

The truth is, you can't always reach another person's heart just by communicating. And the more you believe it's possible, the more disappointing it is when your efforts fail.

During one such attempt this year, I was sharing my frustration and pain with a few close friends. And one of them said, "You have to stop communicating. You have done all you can do. You can't change another person's heart. And you are not accountable for their heart; only yours." Those words have stayed with me. They rang true the moment they were said. And I knew God was speaking to me through my friend. I did stop communicating that very day. And the feelings of frustration seemed to evaporate.

In another more recent situation, I was tempted to communicate with someone, knowing I should not for many reasons. In some moments, the urge to express myself was very strong. At one point I wanted to give the person a piece of my mind. (You know, a "Who do you think you are?" kind of response.) And at other times I wanted to write in love, trying to reach the person's heart. But I knew I wouldn't touch that person's heart no matter how hard I tried. And I kept reminding myself that the situation isn't about me. It only concerns me because it involves someone I dearly love. And that person is all grown up and in God's care.

My friend's words came back to me again. "You can't change another person's heart. And you are not accountable for their heart; only yours."

I have successfully restrained myself from an impulsive and ill-advised response to a situation that is far beyond my control and not about me. I feel good about that. But what surprised me was how quickly I got past the desire to respond this time. For someone like me, that's a lot of growth.

I told John the other night that I think I have finally learned something important. No matter how strong the urge to respond is, if I resist it for a few days, the urge goes away. I also told him, "You would think I could have grasped this before the age of 51." And we laughed.

But I keep thinking about what an important step this is for me both spiritually and emotionally. I have always responded and reacted. But I am learning that sometimes no response is the only appropriate response. If I can learn this lesson, I'm pretty sure anybody can.

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