Dig deep enough, long enough and you will discover that people have good reasons for the ways they act, feel and respond.
"Why did I/do I do that?" "For a good reason' has become my stock response. But its more than a cliche. I believe it.
Twenty-three years in Clinical Psychology, thousands of patients later, and I have yet to serve a person, marriage or family with "problems" that didn't make sense (eventually). Listen long enough to appreciate the context in which people's problems have developed and surfaced, and you'll find a good reason for the way they act, the beliefs they believe and the things they do.
I don't get surprised much anymore. And I hope I have a poker face. Our youngest, Laura, says I do. Upon Harley's rescue (our dog) from a runaway episode into busy traffic Laura asked why I wasn't more visibly upset. "I"m sorry, honey. Guess I'm a bit desensitized by the things I hear and see everyday."
Consider these scenarios:
- Her father began violating her during the middle of the night when she was three.
- His nights were filled with moans and screams from his mother's escapades with abusive men.
- A pedophile fulfilled her desperation for affection after her father 'disappeared' into himself with serious illness.
- She spent entire days cleaning and re-cleaning the bathroom.
- She 'loses it' if he becomes authoritarian (like her dad).
- He lacks compassion when she cries, and finds himself wanting to pile on the abuse.
It all sounds pretty sick, right? But dig a little deeper. Let them tell their life story. Walk in their shoes for a few hours and it will begin to make sense. I promise.
Neurotic reasoning and responses remain hidden until the valid reasons for their existence are discovered, understood and accepted. But this happens only in environments and where Grace is the fragrance of the relationship.
Do you do this for those that God has put on your path? Does the scent of acceptance and understanding waft around you?
Pat Conroy, said it well in his book, "The Prince of Tides" through one his characters who was severely abused throughout his childhood.
'People are quick to judge my relationship failures. But they haven't lived my life. They judge by my appearance that I am like a racing Schooner (boat) that should cut through the water fast and true, but fail to see that below the waterline that the hull is full of holes, and that I'm doing well just to make the sucker float.'
Sit with such a person long enough, and lovingly listen with heart and skill, and I guarantee that their attitudes and behavior will begin to make sense. And as you validate and accept that they have good reasons, those reasons will begin to make sense to them. They will connect the dots, and begin to act (and react) out of awareness rather than self-protective habit.
And as you do this, you will be administering Grace while recognizing the Truth of their lives, and your manner will be full of Grace and Truth!
The results of such understanding ministry will be a more whole and healthy Body of Christ, one person, one marriage, one family at a time.
*Jeff Williams is founding director of the global counseling and coaching ministry, Grace & Truth Counseling and Coaching.