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(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is not. (Max Lucado)

I believe that babies arrive in this world good. And, yet I also believe in the concept of original sin—as in babies show up self-focused because that’s what’s developmentally appropriate for a new creature who must figure out how to stay alive and well in the outside world. A baby isn’t worried about the self-preservation of anyone else yet—and that makes sense. To them it really is all about them when they first arrive. Babies don’t care if parents want to sleep or eat or whatever. They want what they want (need?) right now—no conflict in their minds.

However, as we grow, we begin to understand that others matter, too. But, boy is it hard sometimes to get ourselves to do for others and/or to be aware enough to realize that sometimes what might be right for us isn’t necessarily right for others or what they want. How we resolve those conflicts between our desires and those of others is really, really tough. Talk about conflicted, right?

I grew up in a home where my father tended to think my mother would want what he wanted, even if she expressed otherwise—which to be fair to him, she did not do often enough. By the time she started stating more of what she thought—after over twenty-five years of marriage—he didn’t really hear her. Sure she said she didn’t want to go to the football game, but who doesn’t want to go to the football game? Of course she would be tired from staying at the cast party but isn’t everyone tired?

I confess I am more like my father than my mother. As much as I try to figure out what others might want, sometimes I’m really into what I want. If there is only one chocolate left in the cabinet, am I going to save it for my husband (who also loves chocolate) or eat it? I’m fairly certain I fall more on the selfish line with that sort of thing, but I try to be a person who hears when someone expresses a direct request. (So, Sherman, if you’re reading, give me some direction on this chocolate thing!)

And sometimes we have to learn the lesson of awareness of others the hard way—by being told when we’ve been steamrolling over someone else. I am still embarrassed that my friend/employee had to tell me that you don’t joke about firing someone. Talk about insensitive—pointing out power differences and making light of someone else’s livelihood. I blush every time I think of that. But I changed. Thank goodness she was willing to say something to me and yet still remain my friend. She likely protected me from alienating others in my life in my days since then.

Then I also remember times I have stated my boundaries and/or my reasoning behind any boundary, but not felt heard. The other person continued to do what I asked him/her not to do or flat-out told me he/she wouldn’t change just because I wanted that change. I don’t want to be like my mother with my father and leave others guessing as to what I really think, but if the response I receive is not sufficient for my self-preservation, I either keep others at a distance or no longer invite them in my circle at all.

Some behaviors are considered universally objectionable and others are personally objectionable. If my request seems unreasonable to you, then maybe we have to agree to disagree.

Truth? I hate conflict—I want to get along with everyone and believe the best of everyone. But that is as unrealistic as thinking that those who don’t agree with me are horrible people from the get-go. We are all individuals who are likely to think differently in many ways from one another. Conflict is inevitable but there is some choice as to how we handle that conflict together and how often we are in conflict.

Back to that chocolate thing—I’m certain my husband probably recognizes that I’m a bigger boundary encroacher than he is. However, he is the epitome of that still waters running deep expression. If a boundary matters to him, it has mattered to him for a long time and when he finally mentions it, he’s going to mean it. Unlike my father, though, I think I realize that maybe that also means I’m going to have to listen harder and consider what I wasn’t hearing before.

But when someone else is bringing that spirit of conflict into our home, we are united in our desire to reduce that conflict’s effect on us. While we believe that living in the midst of constant conflict is a hard way to live, we especially stand firm in the belief that engaging in constant conflict is no way to treat people in your inner circle. Conflict itself is not a sin, but just part of living in this world and in relationship with others. Nonetheless, when it happens too often, it’s time to ask why.

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(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2014 Christiana Lambert

How many of us have attended weddings where we listened to Bible verses read from 1 Corinthians 13? The passage that begins with “Love is patient and kind” introduces one of the most detailed treatises on love in the Bible. The Apostle Paul did not set out to address the love between partners or even friends or family, but instead spoke of agape love—which is divine love of and from God. Still, many of us think of these verses when we think of romantic love and commitment. These words model godly love as an example of how to behave toward all people whom we love, yet we, who are human, most need them to remember how to treat the most constant person in our lives—and thus the frequent reminder at wedding ceremonies.

Why is the person who is most precious to us—and the one who puts up with our failings so often—the one we find so hard to treat with the respect and love he or she deserves?

Everyday life intrudes upon the drug-like euphoria we feel when first falling in love. When we begin to know someone, we can’t imagine acting self-seeking or rude to them. That person is a perfect fit for us. And yet no one really is a perfect fit—it’s more a question of what we can live with or live without and what we must have in order to continue together happily enough.

In other words, if love is a drug, what benefits must a person receive and what side effects are too much? For example, look at stimulant medications used to treat AD/HD—medications that are often abused illegally. Contrary to popular beliefs, when properly prescribed, these medications aren’t supposed to give a high or create a life filled with peaks and valleys. Too much stimulant can leave a person feeling anxious and irritable even if it might give the focus to pull all-nighters. The appropriate dose and type of medication for the AD/HD patient is the one that brings the person into the moment and that provides a sense of calm as well as confidence that the person can find balance in life and manage necessary matters in his or her life, including relationships with others.

Some love seems more like the stimulants abused just to feel the highs—even when the lows are simply caused by a mismatch in the needs of the individuals in a relationship.

When I fell in love that first time, I couldn’t imagine coming down from that high. But when the lows came, I didn’t want to recognize just how much I was trying to force what we had just to get back to the highs. And the more I forced, the less my own love acted like that 1-Corinthians-13 love, even as I tried to let those words be my guide. All I wanted was more time with him, but what he needed was time for sleep, sports, schoolwork, and helping others. Our love was like too much stimulant—incredibly high and energetic until it became irritating and fragile. Despite his desire to live out a 1-Corinthians-13 love, he could not do so with me any more than I could with him—trying harder to follow these tenets would not make it happen. The side effects of our drug of love were too numerous and too damaging to continue together.

On the other hand, when we’re compatible with someone, it’s not as hard to have a 1-Corinthian-13 type of love—assuming we believe in and strive to follow those words. This is what I have found with Sherman, my husband of 26 years. Yes, maintaining a day-to-day love long term still has some challenges, but it is not all-day-and-all-night difficult. With a lasting love, much of it happens easily because we love who they are—with us and away from us. We can be in the moment together and confident that who we are together will be good and will also allow us each to be the individuals we are. For all their eccentricities, we love more of them than we do not. As Sherman likes to say, “You marry the strangest people.” To which I always respond, “You certainly do.”

Though our wedding ceremony did not include reading the 1 Corinthians 13 passage, we see those words as an explanation for how to live out the passages we did choose from John 15 and 1 John 4, including the following:

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

If love is at all like a drug, then it’s more like a medication prescribed by God, the healer—don’t settle for one bought from a street dealer. Love is patient and kind—and that also applies to loving ourselves enough to have the patience to wait for a 1-Corinthians-13 love.

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

When I was the same age my kids are now, my parents knew so much less about my social connections. For one, in my case, college and young adulthood happened away from my family. They were not part of those worlds for me, partially because of the distance.

But also, that’s just the way things were in those days. Did I feel alone sometimes? You bet I did. Did I wish for my parents’ advice? I can’t even remember but I don’t think that was how my generation operated.

Times change—so now most of us remain so much closer to our growing and grown children, even more so because of this trend for young adults to continue living in our homes.

Because of all this closeness, we experience our kids’ relationships with friends and partners in a much different manner than our parents did. All that drama of sorting out connections in our teens and 20s was somewhat removed from our parents, even though it most certainly happened.

My only children are twins so we in our family are always firmly in one particular developmental phase at a time. And maybe because my kids have no other siblings, they make the mistake of presuming other relationships will mimic the give and take of that twin relationship without having to set up boundaries or without having to articulate what they need from others because so often in their own relationship, they have known how far to push and when to give.

Both of them, though such different people, have very similar problems with others. Time and time again, when someone does not respect their boundaries or when others expect them to be the one whose wishes are subsidiary, they spend more time worrying about the other person’s pain and needs without realizing that their own concerns are not often reciprocated.

That is until they explode in the presence of those of us who are not the primary source of their anger, frustration, and hurt.

Whatever difficulties I may have experienced from my own growing-up years and despite whatever hang-ups I may have retained, I remain a somewhat naively-open and friendly person who presumes the best of people unless they show me otherwise. I expect to like my kids’ friends and partners and I want to believe that who each is is good and decent and worthy of my respect.

For a brief moment in my daughter’s life, when I was still in charge of driving her friends and her around, I forgot how complicated relationships in those years can be and just enjoyed spending time with various young people. But one-by-one, the self-interests rose to the surface. I did not like how my daughter was being treated, nor, how we parents were being treated. Somehow the clear boundaries between anyone’s parents and younger people that were present in my younger days made it easier for us to know that whatever we were experiencing with our friends, we should never, ever bring that into our dealings with their parents.

It’s as if by being friendly instead of formal, that we have invited ourselves into the disagreements of their age. Did one of the kids’ friends just use the passive-aggressive speech pattern he uses on them on me because he did not feel he received the proper attention from me? Did another young person get snippy around me because I did not concede on a casual matter? Perhaps there really was something to the Mr. and Mrs. titles we called our friends’ parents even years after we’d left our parents’ homes.

All I know is I’m tired of reaching out to people who respond to me with behaviors and attitudes we should only feel comfortable showing our own parents—if only because we are their own kids. It’s just good manners to be on better behavior in someone else’s family’s home or table or company.

And if this is how you are treating me or my family members when you presumably are tempering some of your behavior and words, I shudder to think how you are really treating my kids, who seem to continue to have soft hearts for people’s pains, even when said people cause a lot of pain to their hearts. No one said they or we were perfect, but it’s time for everyone—regardless of age—to figure out that none of us is. Barney was right when he sang that each of us is special, but he should have also explained that doesn’t mean some people get to be “more special” than others. Being in relationship means reasonable give and take, as well as forgiveness, comes from both parties.

As for me, just call me Mrs. Lambert and leave me out of your drama.

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