Over the years, I have wondered why people don’t often approach me. I used to feel invisible, small in my physical presence and quite easy to overlook. Then one day someone who knows me very well told me that I am intimidating. It made me laugh because I am quite an unassuming person. I certainly am not bubbly and full of enthusiasm though I am gentle, kind and do my best to see all perspectives rather than judge anyone.
Even though I have always been this way, there have been times when I have tried to exert my power through physical strength or a loud voice. That is what we are all taught to do. What I learned is that it doesn’t work. As an overwhelmed mother, I spent several years trying to carefully structure and manage my children’s lives. It did not feel genuine to me but there were so many rules that must be followed and someone had to make sure they were. I very notably parented my first child that way. He is very stubborn and does not automatically do as he is told. He fights and questions me every time I try to guide him. There is certainly a benefit to his being that way but what he made me realize is that as a tactic to bring about change, control does not work.
What I began to do instead was to ask questions and listen to answers. If my children are behaving in a way that is not appropriate, I ask them what they are feeling and why they are acting that way. Most of the time, we are able to get down to the bottom of the matter and everyone ends up feeling satisfied. The behavior changes and though it takes some time, the results are lasting. We don’t have the same argument again because we gave it enough attention the first time.
In order for me to approach my children this way, I have to be vulnerable. I have to open my heart and acknowledge the fact that I may be wrong. I have to let go of my need to force change and rather try to understand and respect them. Redirecting their behavior often begins with a hug rather than a shouting match.
Growing through the process of learning to be a parent has helped me to understand that my power lies in my sensitivity. When I allow myself to be open and receptive, taking it all in rather than forcing my agenda, I show that I am strong. I believe in the things that I stand for so much that I don’t have to prove them. Unfortunately, some people take this lack of action as callousness. Although my children know me and understand that my quiet presence indicates respect, that is not the norm for most people. Therefore, it can appear that I am being aloof or neglectful. I show my love for others by listening and taking it all in. I remember nearly every single person I meet and can tell you when and where I first met them. What I have had to learn is that other people don’t naturally feel as comfortable with silence and stillness as I do.
As difficult as it is for me to remember, I need to go out of my way to communicate and engage with others to make them feel seen and heard. I need to recognize that different people need different things. Truly caring means that I step outside of my own experience to meet another in theirs. I must be vulnerable enough to express the truth of my heart to complete strangers. Apparently, if I don’t, my tiny little self becomes somewhat scary.
Every time I write something, I look for an image to encapsulate the point I am trying to make. This one may be my favorite so far. To me, it depicts not only the state I am in right now but also the state of the world. We all have a light of love burning within. In order to cast out the pain and suffering of the world right now, we can commit to opening the door to allow more of our own light to shine. The fear, of course, is that someone will blow it out. Yet we know that there is always a spark to light it again. Maybe we will have to go inward and nurture our own light once more. We may have to forgive ourselves for taking a risk and forgive others for rejecting what we offered. Then, once our light is burning brightly, we can try again. That is what life is all about and it is why we are here in this particular moment. There is most certainly enough love to cast out this hate and fear. All we have to do is be brave enough to open our hearts.