22 Feb Is This an Event or a Process?
Every now and then we are blessed with a pearl of wisdom that comes to us in slogan form; a gem that impacts us at a deep level. Far from being trite the quip sinks deep…
The title of this blog represents such a jewel for me. I gleaned the question, “Is it an event or a process?” from teaching I received while completing my counseling degree. Dr. Robert Lehman, Director of the Counseling program at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan spurred the question in relation to parenting issues. I’ve discovered since that time that the question is equally relevant to many other areas of life.
As Dr. Lehman explained, many parents set themselves up for bigger problems with their children by not starting with the premise that raising children to be adults who make good decisions is a formative process. One that requires consistency over time. In other words, parents sometime make the mistake of expecting their children to conform immediately, instead of accepting the idea that growth and maturity take time.
This attitude can sometimes be expressed in the feeling that “I have to fix this now” or “I’m going to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” I’ve written other blogs on the topic of parenting. Today, I’d like to ask our theme question in regards to other relationships.
When, as adults, we merge our interests with other adults, I believe it is easy for us to forget that we are still mingling with people who are very much in process. But, we seem to readily acknowledge that we are maturing and learning new skills every day. Unfortunately, we fail to transfer that understanding to the people we interact with on a daily basis. Our shortcoming reveals itself in ungraciousness. We become impatient, judgmental, and unforgiving.
Perhaps you can relate. Have you ever vowed never to shop at a certain store again because of a clerk’s error, yelled at a spouse, severed friendships over misunderstandings, or taken stands against people because of their beliefs? If you can say yes to any one of these (or all), maybe considering this question is the reframe you need to adjust your expectations.
The next time you interact with a cashier who overcharges you, instead of treating it like a one-time event in which they failed, try to assume they are in the process of gaining new skills or struggling with extra stresses that hindered their performance that day. When drawing their attention to the issue, assume the very best of them and hope for ever improving results (not perfection) in the future.
In the case of a spouse, it is so important to realize that you are not clones. Both of you bring very distinct perspectives, histories, and physical attributes into the relationship. All of these things are dynamic entities that continue to evolve over time. Virtually everything the two of you encounter will be through very different lenses. It is rarely a good idea to assume that whatever you brought to the situation your spouse also brought to it and then judge their actions based on that faulty premise.
For instance, it is not fair to assume that your spouse saw everything, heard everything and thought everything you just did about a given scenario and then expect them to come to the exact same conclusion you do. Your spouse really did bring a whole different set of perceivers and perceptions to the event. Your two experiences of the event may very well coincide, compliment and enhance each others. On the other hand, you may just as readily contradict, collide or conflict. Merging your experiences into a collaborative history is a process. One that takes work and one that is worth it.
You don’t have to stay on opposite ends of the spectrum. In fact, if you approach your partner remembering that it takes time to learn new things and think new thoughts, your willingness to understand or patiently await further developments may be the missing ingredient needed for the meeting of your minds. In the meantime, seek to season your judgments with the gracious understanding that your partner’s perspective is as valid and justified as yours is.
Your position took time to develop and it is dynamic. It included a process of many encounters with people. places and thoughts. Your spouse may eventually arrive at the same conclusion you have. So, start with graciously acknowledging the fact that change comes in stages which take time. In the meantime, be open to the idea that often both parties move center before the dance begins.
Living life as a process instead of a viewing it as a series of good or bad events can be so much more peaceful and hopeful. Recognize that things aren’t as you wish them to be – yet. Then enjoy the things that are.