I hadn't done the
taxes as already promised many, many, many times. We were both standing in the kitchen... him in a feeling state of rage, me in a feeling state of shame. I was hearing the words he was saying, but I couldn't really listen. In the face of the threat to my sense
of self, I had gone into protection mode. And in his own way, so had he.
The little skirmishes had been going on for several years,
but the first "big" shot about this particular issue was now fired, and so the potential for a bigger war was started.
I didn't know
what to say in response, and in times of crisis my human default for protection had always been more flight than fight. In this case, I didn't walk away... I just stood there, sort of frozen in a flood of uncomfortable emotions with nothing coming to mind
in how to respond, and how to defend (protect) myself. I was feeling scared and exposed and caught with nowhere to turn.
instinct was just to say I was sorry, but I was aware enough in the moment to remember from past experiences, that apologizing would just make him angrier. His past view of "needing to always be a survivor, and in control of a world that was always out to
get him", meant that apologies were only ever empty words and excuses, and not actions.
I was standing silent, lost, scared of his
anger, and even righteous and angry back at him for his anger. My mind was racing around for what to do, when suddenly an incredibly clear thought and voice came into my mind...
I knew that thought certainly didn't come from my frightened ego.
It came from a much clearer place, and I knew instantly that it was TRUE, and how and why it was true for me, in this situation, and in this moment. And I listened to it.
As I started to say the words, I could feel my defensive ego collapse and an uncomfortable vulnerability flood in. I was scared of letting go of my protection, but somehow I knew I had to say it anyway.
"Thank you. You're right. Thank you for waking me up from my stupor. Thank you for doing something big and loud enough to make me face and realize what I've been avoiding
and what I need to do."
And then, he immediately relaxed... his anger was gone, the tension in the air was completely defused. He
sensed that I had truly heard him. In truth, my ego hadn't heard him at all, but my heart somehow did.
I let go of the need to protect
"me", and in doing so, felt genuine compassion for his suffering. And so that feeling came out in my words...offering wholehearted understanding, instead of defensive apologies and promises.
By grace, he in return, somehow felt it, and the war stopped. Shortly after, the taxes got done.
In truth, there can never be a prescription for how best to respond in any potential war, whether we're the one igniting the first shot, or whether we're the one responding to it. However, grace is best served when either or both sides somehow
hears their own whispers of wisdom among the cacophonies of their egos.
And what will matter most, is not the specific words or actions,
but an awareness of where they're coming from... leaning toward the feeling of compassion and vulnerability, rather than the feeling of fear and anger and judgment and loathing and defensiveness.
Although this story is about a small war that appears inconsequential among all the wars going on in our world today, I sense that it is for me, nonetheless universal and profound.
Perhaps whenever anyone else appears to start a war in my personal universe, whether in my kitchen, on my Facebook feed, or on the news I'm watching or reading, I wonder
if it could always be possible to find my own unique way of thanking them, instead of returning fire?
Well, I'm human, so I expect
that on occasion I will still fire back, but I do love the possibility of the question. How about you?