As promised, more thoughts from yesterday’s post. I started getting into empathy vs sympathy yesterday, so go read that if you haven’t yet. I’d like to explore the idea of space in relationship as it relates to peace. This is basically stream of consciousness, so bear with me.
I’ll just jump right in. I’ve been married for almost 14 years. I’ve got some things to say about relationships. It’s taken me a long time to learn this lesson I am about to expand on, and I am still learning to incorporate it into my life. The idea is, I have to allow space for more than just me and my ideas in a relationship. Be it my wife, my friends, my kids, or other family members. I can trace most of the tension I have experienced in relationships back to the feeling that I wasn’t given space to exist in. I can also look back and see that at times I haven’t allowed other people to have equal space in our relationship. It’s true of almost every person I have known. I’m willing to say it’s what causes most conflicts. It’s a lack of true empathy. It’s an enemy of peace. It’s anti-Christ.
Think about the idea of being a human for a minute. What do we all want? What would bring us peace? We want to be known. We want to know others, to be close to people. You can say you are just fine being alone, but you and I both know that’s untrue.
Ultimately, I think we all want to know that our existence matters. The impact of our existence can be measured by our relationships, and so at the end of the day relationships are what matter most. Not things, or ideas, or beliefs. We have peace at the end of life by thinking back over the time we spent well with the people we love.
Where I fall short most often is wanting to fill the space in relationships with the things I think. I have lots of ideas and I’m eager to share them with someone. Rather than asking questions and listening, I offer my thoughts and ideas into the space and then get hurt when they’re thrown back with out the response I wanted. Likewise, if I respect a person and think they are smarter than me, I’ll hold back what I think for fear of being wrong, allowing the other person to fill the entire space by themselves. Either way, the space is only filled by one party at a time. Either I’m too forceful, or I hold back in fear of rejection, selling the relationship short. Healthy balance is where the magic is.
Conflict is not really the absence of peace then, is it? If both people are giving to the space and allowing and listening to the other, it is healthy conflict, which is fertile ground for peace. Many times I have felt deflated after an argument or conversation where I wasn’t allowed any space, and I didn’t even say anything the whole time. The balance is allowing everyone present to actually be present. When everyone is allowed in a space it expands. When one person tries to fill it, the space can feel cramped, like the walls are closing in.
Not everyone belongs in every space, but I believe there is a space for everyone. There are few better feelings than the peace of finding a space you don’t have to compete for. When your whole being is allowed to exist, good and bad, it’s bliss. To be a person who allows that space for others is to compound the feeling and create a realm of possibility drenched in peace. That’s community. That’s marriage, friendship, parenthood. That’s Jesus coming up out of the waters of the Jordan and hearing, “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased” as the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. He had just entered His space. May we all find and recognize ours.