“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.” – Joseph Campbell, author
“My supervisor says I miss too much time, and…”
Jim was one of those soft guys you see a lot today…not the macho type! He was about 30, a single parent…a little overweight and a sport’s nut, especially hockey and baseball. And, Jim had a generosity of spirit…some might call him a giver… kind to a fault. He directed this benevolence towards many people…but especially his nine year old daughter, Hillary. He was co-parenting her with a week about schedule with her mom, Gloria, which seemed to be working fine.
Jim was a middle manager in government and made an appointment because he was “in trouble at work!” When I asked him about it, he said, “My supervisor says I miss too much time, and am not carry my share of the work load on the team!”
“What do you think Jim? Is that true…have you been missing a lot of time and not meeting the production levels required in your job?” I asked.
“Ken, being a single dad, coaching my hockey team, checking up daily on my elderly mom and trying to catch the odd game on TV…it’s like I never seem to have enough time to do everything I’ve committed myself to doing.”
“Do you think it’s a time management problem or a priority setting problem…or both?” I asked.
“What is the most powerful word in any language…?”
“I’m not sure…I just know I need my job, and something has to change…or I’ll be in even more serious trouble!” he replied with an air of doom.
“I’m wondering if the challenge you face has something to do with power…in fact, your own power.” Then I added, “Jim, what is the most powerful word in any language, that anyone can say, at any time?”
“Ken, I have no idea…maybe ‘thank you’ perhaps?” he replied, clearly puzzled by the question.
“Jim, managing your time and your priorities, demands you regularly use this word…the most powerful word is ‘No’ because it set a clear boundary between you and the rest of the world, so you can survive, and live your own life!”
“Ken, are you suggesting I don’t say No often enough, and this is causing me all the crap that is going on in my life?” he asked.
“What do you think Jim? Do you frequently find yourself wishing you had said No to someone…second guessing yourself…and, ending up beating yourself up about not saying No?
“That sounds like my life story…and a daily occurrence, at the very least!” he said, clearly embarrassed.
“Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.”
– Stephen R. Covey, author
“I often feel like I can’t say No to either of them.”
“Jim, where, and with whom, do you find it occurring the most?”
“That’s the easiest question you’ve asked me so far…it’s almost invariably with Hillary or her mother, Gloria. I often feel like I can’t say No to either of them. I find it hard with Hillary because she will probably be my only child. With Gloria…she has so much constant chaos in her life, I frequently taken over Hillary’s care.”
“Is that connected to what is going on at work?” I asked.
“Yes, big time! Hillary is one of those kids who seems to catch everything going around. Just last week, I took two days off work when she had a bad cold; two weeks before that, it was the flu; and, with her chronic bronchitis, it seems it’s just one thing after another.”
“You mentioned Gloria’s chaos…what’s going on there?”
“Gloria has a good job, but a demanding one…and she is in a new relationship…and she has always struggled with keeping her priorities straight! So, at times, while well intentioned, she isn’t very reliable…so I try to pick up the slack with our daughter.”
“Jim, would it be fair to say you want Hillary to learn to be an independent person for her own future well being?”
“For sure Ken, in fact, we talk about it a lot because of her living in two homes, and having different responsibilities in each.”
“Let’s talk about ‘true love’ for a minute.”
“Jim, would you also want Gloria to learn to be more independent in her care of Hillary, and the running of the rest of her life?”
“It would sure take some of the pressure off of me, if she did! She seems very independent in some areas, like in her work, but with Hillary’s care…she is totally different.”
“Let’s talk about ‘true love’ for a minute. Jim, when you were a kid, did your parents only support you or did they also challenge you?”
‘Ken, my Mom was my salvation because my Dad was a demanding, dominating, degrading person…who I am still not close to…even to this day!”
“Jim, it sounds like you had a loving childhood…you had both support and challenge and so learned to be both dependent and independent…which prepared you for the successful life you have today!”
“Are you telling me love involves both good and bad feelings?”
“Jim, love is not a feeling…it is a combination of both good and bad feelings…it is an attitude of gratitude for both the support of your Mom and the challenge of your Dad. This enabled you to learn the survival skills you needed to have the future you see today! The love you received from your parents was just what you needed to learn to be who you are, and do what you do, and have what you have, today!”
“Jim, it is half and half, at every second!”
“I never thought of love that way before…I viewed love as mostly support with a few challenges thrown in…but you’re suggesting the support and challenge is more even…is that true, Ken?”
“Jim, it is half and half, at every second! Let’s take an example from your relationship with Hillary. Think of a time when you were really pleased to be able to support her…when was it?”
“My best example would be when I helped her with her school science project. She had to research and make up a display board on dinosaurs. We worked together on it for over two weeks. Where is the down side to that, Ken…I was being a good Dad…wasn’t I?” he asked, with a hesitation to his voice.
“Jim, go to the best moment of those memories…when was it?” I asked.
“That was probably when she came home with her final mark of 87%…she was so pleased, and so was I!” he replied.”
“Recall that very second, where you were and, who else was there?”
“Well, there was just Hilary and I in the kitchen at home…she was showing me her grade and great comments her teacher made on her project!”
“Jim, recall that very moment in time as you watched how pleased Hilary was, and how proud you were as well,…what else was going on in your mind as you watched her…what was the challenging part for you in that moment of support, pride and pleasure?”
“Expecting support without challenge is like expecting a rainbow without the rain!”
King Ayles, author
“So, ‘true love’ is noticing both are present at all times…is that it?”
“As you ask me that, Ken, what springs to my mind were questions I was asking myself…and, these questions have occurred to me at other times, as well…like, Did I help her too much?…What would have happened if I hadn’t made the time to help her?…Shouldn’t her Mom have helped her too?…Am I undermining her self confidence by providing too much support?”
“Jim, that’s the other side of that moment in time…the challenge of self doubt, confusion and uncertainty! That’s the other part of love which we often ignore!”
“So, ‘true love’ is noticing both are present at all times…is that it ?” he asked.
“That’s correct Jim…but also, to notice it is natural, and it is supposed to be…it is how we learn best…with equal amounts of support and challenge!” I added.
“So, are you suggesting, I have been supporting Hillary more than challenging her…so, I am actually slowing down her learning at times, by doing this?”
“What do you think Jim?”
“I think that’s why I have these challenges…and not just with Hilary, but with other people, like Gloria; and other situations, like saying yes instead of No to volunteering, for example!”
“Hilary and Gloria will get the opportunity to learn to be more independent.”
Then, he added, “And, if I learn to say No more often, Hillary and Gloria will get the opportunity to learn to be more independent. That will free me to meet other commitments I have…like my work! Is that what you’re saying, Ken?”
“Jim, it sounds like it is what you’re saying…I’m just showing you how our natural learning system works.” I replied.
“So, saying No serves both me, and who ever I say it to, because it gives, both me and them, the opportunity to learn important skills for the future. Is that the core of this natural law, Ken?”
Jim, you got it exactly! Honour it and follow it and you will get back control of your life!”
“As I think about it, there is a part of me that knows what you say is true!”
Jim took the idea and ran with it!
Jim took the idea and ran with it! And he did well! He began his journey that day and is still on it…learning how loving someone is always about supporting and challenging them…which grows us and them! He developed more balanced, and so, more loving relationships, in several parts of his life. This freed him in other important areas, especially, his work!
“Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.”
Mark Twain, author
Until Next time…
So, remember, to empower yourself, you will need to set boundaries in all relationships, otherwise, you will create dependent relationships of infatuation or resentment rather than balanced ones of love.
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