And Elkanah, her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is you r heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” 1 Sam 1:8
Wow! What is Hannah supposed to say to this? Now not only is she mourning her infertility, but she gets to feel guilty because her husband feels he is inadequate to meet her need. In his defense, Elkanah is trying to get Hannah to acknowledge the blessings of her life (namely himself) which certainly, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, shining a spotlight on the positive in life is often a great way to help someone going through a tough time gain perspective, but it must be done with tact and grace.
I’ll admit that these are two qualities that I don’t currently own in abundance. I am often looked as a Pollyanna. I consistently spin things around to look from an optimistic perspective. It is often, not well received. But as a blogger buddy, Bud Hennekes, of mine (www.aboundlessworld.com) says, “If I were flawless I wouldn’t be qualified to write about personal development.” Amen, brother! We are all works in progress; it is only when we begin to realize our flaws that we can truly grow.
Last night, Alexander was diligently working to solve his first Rubik’s Cube. He read somewhere (in the Guinness Book of World Records, I believe) that a person completed the Cube in just under 8 seconds. (How extraordinary is that? It takes me days to get one side!) He spent about an hour working on it when he, exhausted and deflated, said, “I never should have messed it up. I’ll never get this!”
“Really?” I said. “You’ve almost got the red side finished! That’s awesome!”
Turns out, a pep talk was not what he wanted to hear at that moment. He totally melted down. Shoot, just call me Elkanah. Now I’m not saying that I did exactly the same thing. Elkanah took Hannah’s pain and made it about him- that is a whole other chapter. But we were both in essence saying, “It’s wrong to be frustrated about this- count all of your blessings.”
How often do we do this to our friends, loved ones and even to ourselves? Elkanah was telling Hannah, you don’t need a baby, you have me! I was telling Xander you don’t need to be upset, you are making progress! Neither statement meant harm. In fact, both were well-intended, but both hurt and bruised an already wounded spirit. By failing to first acknowledge and affirm the difficulty and pain of the current situation, we failed to support our loved one and really only ended up making them feel worse.
I think that as a human beings created specifically to walk and talk with God, our most significant need in life is to feel we have been heard.
Xander didn’t want my pep talk. He wanted me to listen, to hear and to acknowledge his remorse for doing something that could not now be undone. Hannah didn’t want Elkinah to remind her of the love she had in her life, she simply wanted him to listen, hear and acknowledge the desperation in her soul.
I watched my husband, Charlie, flawlessly model the behavior that I needed to learn I that moment.
“What’s up Xanman?” he asked, quietly.
In the desperate cry that only a seven year old can muster, he said, “I’ve messed the whole thing up and now there’s yellow here and green there. It’s impossible! I’ll never fix it! I should have never started it!”
“I hear ya. It is sad when you can’t fix things right away. I’m sorry that it is harder than you thought it would be. I was always scared to start these myself when I got them. But, there’s no fun in not trying. Right?”
Sniff. Sniff, “Right,” Xander muttered.
“And you do have the red side almost all finished! That’s awesome! Give me a high-five! I am sure you will figure this all out. It will probably take some time.”
“OK,” said Xander. “Hey Dad?”
“You think Google would know how to do this?”
Simply by acknowledging Xander’s problem, and letting him know that he was heard, Charlie completely diffused the situation, and opened Xander up to exploring a possibility other than giving up. Wow! I am a blessed woman! Of course, now I have an incredibly focused seven year old who won’t put down the Rubik’s cube to brush his teeth this morning, but I suppose this is the price you pay for teaching your children that persistence and perseverance pay off. I wonder if Google really does know how to solve a Rubik’s cube…