“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
– Michael Jordan
For my first blog post on the new “Soulstuck?” website, I want to talk about something that is near and dear to my experience and my soul.
“What’s that?” you might say…
Ouch! That’s not a popular message is it?
But just think with me. Remember the old Michael Jordon quote about how many times he failed before he succeeded? Well, I can tell you I’ve failed a whole lot more in life than I’ve succeeded as well. Especially in the area of being sensitive to my children.
For that, permit me to get personal.
I have been married for 18 years to the same beautiful woman. My wife, Rebecca is my strong sounding board. Without her, I don’t really know what kind of man I’d be. I’m not saying that to be mushy or melodramatic… it’s just the truth.
I have four awesome kids. Two older boys and two younger girls.
My oldest son Caleb and I share a lot of characteristics. We think similarly and so we communicate well. (Basically, that means he pretty much does what I tell him to do. Ha!) Of course there are pros and cons to that aspect of our relationship. The pros are that he pretty much gets my personality and when we communicate, there is a certain level of understanding that happens without communication. The cons are that we are both pretty bull-headed and arrogant and that gets us both in a lot of trouble.
My other son Cole, is much more like my wife. He is very sensitive and has a low tolerance for bullish behavior from his dad. We think very differently. He is much more analytical and intelligent than I am and so our communication is often on two different wavelengths. The pros are that he is much less dependent on me to think for him and to maintain an individual personality of his own. The cons are that I am like a “bull in a china shop” and he is much more like a balsa wood airplane. His strength lies in his attention to detail and his quick mind. The material he is made up of is strong, but in a different way. He is also much more sensitive to his surroundings than I am.
Which leads me to my point. We had a moment yesterday where Cole and I were in the heat of discussion about something. ( I will spare you the details). Suffice it to say, there was a failure on my part to be sensitive to his strong and compassionate heart. In fact, I labeled him something in the heat of the moment and couldn’t take it back. This led to a downward spiral of emotional brow-beating that I did to him and in turn, he began doing to himself. In an effort to try and rebuild what I had broken, I simply made things worse. At this point the wound had been made and my son was given a “tape” from his dad.
We’ll talk about “tapes” at a later time, but basically I gave him a moment where I spoke something into him that he will quite possibly play back in his mind at a later time when things get tough again.
This is not the first time I have failed to look at things from my child’s perspective. In fact, there has been a growing seed of bitterness in my soul over many things that have been in my heart for a long time now. The dissatisfaction and disappointment I express when I see things in my sons that I know are in my own heart brings about a difficult moment of reality that I often like to shove under the carpet.
When I come to my senses after an argument or a fight, I am most often faced with the fact that what I saw in my son that made me angry was something that I know I struggle with as well. What I get angry at in that moment is not my child but actually myself. And then my child receives my wrath when it should be me pointing the finger back at myself. This is completely unfair to him and (in the moment) it allows me to deflect the crap that sits on my soul.
This requires heart work. It requires a new habit, a new plan of action.
So here’s the plan:
- Shut up. I talk way more than I shut up. This is a problem. Knowing this about myself, I need to take the time to close my mouth. This also requires me to rid myself of some things that cause me to want to speak up more. I am a reactive person. When I see or read something that is directly opposed to something I think or believe, my first reaction is just that… to react. This is an emotional response to an external circumstance. I’m convinced that 90% of the arguments I get into or the trouble I get into stems from a lack of silence on my part. Shutting up is a discipline. And it needs to begin today.
- Listen. I’m pretty sure my mother said it first. “Why do you have two ears and one mouth? God gave them to you that way so you would listen twice as much as you speak!!” Listening is the second part of shutting up. I can hear someone without listening to them. This may actually be the hardest part of the process because you may shut your voice off but sometimes your voice is still talking in you head. Can you relate to this? Listening is also a discipline. It requires shutting both your talkbox and your internal dialogue. You have to be open to hear and receive what the other person is saying to you. Until you shut up your mouth and your mind, you won’t ever learn how to listen well.
- Show up. Finally.. answering the questions that are posed to you. I can’t tell you how many times I am in a conversation with my wife or my children and my mind is still focused somewhere else. Being full present in the room when I am in the middle of a conversation that I don’t want to be in is something that also requires discipline for the mind of a chronic thinker. Show up. Your family will thank you for it.
It has taken me my entire life to realize that I am not the hero in my story. Getting unstuck requires me to stop thinking so highly and mightily of myself. If you will follow me in my journey as a soulstuck human being.. I promise we will learn some things together that may just help us help others get unstuck too.