It’s the Quality of Love that Counts
Over the last year, my mother and my son Charlie embarked on quite an exciting adventure researching our family history. As it turns out, the family tree is laden with intrigue, scandal, royal liaisons, great betrayals, many a love tryst and triangle, an unfortunate decapitation or two, children banished to the Tower of London, and not one, but two Byzantium Emperors (Baldwin II in particular was famous for losing his shirt in the Crusades and pawning off the Crown of Thorns to King Louis of France to pay his debts. Today this most precious relic resides at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris!).
As they say, reality is far more interesting and heart-breaking than fiction. And every family tree is planted in a rich soil of drama. We love to throw out the psychological term, “dysfunctional” to describe the unsavory, but what does one expect when human beings share the same hot blood and are flawed from the start. Family theatrics, struggle, heart break, disappointment, and yes, surprises of redemption have been part of the human family story since our dust was enlivened with breath. Find me a family absent of divorce, adultery, sibling rivalry, prodigal sons and daughters, step monsters, and black sheep. It’s no wonder we read the Bible and Shakespeare without a flinch. It’s our story. Cradle to grave our narrative is written by our familial relationships.
Recently, there was an Op Ed article in the New York Times that suggested 2/3 of polled families, from the level of cousin or closer, are currently not on speaking terms
With Thanksgiving coming around, I would like to focus on the potential for surprises of redemption on our family trees. Like it or not, we are each guilty of hurting the ones we claim to love the best. We commit these spiritual breaches that wound the heart and diminish the light of those closest to us. Why is it that we have a difficult time showing up with the best version of ourselves inside our own families? We make the effort for people at work, church, and even strangers. And yet, inside the family nucleus we slip into selfishness, are quick to point out the other’s flaws, and see our needs, opinions, and rights as superior to all others.
I’ll be the first to confess that I don’t particularly enjoy walking in another person’s shoes. I’m perfectly happy with my size nine view of the world. And yet, tunnel vision is a recipe for family drama. It’s the reason so much gets lost in translation and family gatherings turn into bloody mayhem.
Every single one of us could use a refresher lesson on what I call “reading the heart.” It means we suspend OUR reality for just a moment to slip on the shoes of another person. Suddenly, we are stupefied: “That’s how they are feeling?” “Wow! That’s a whole lot of invisible baggage they’ve been carrying around.” “Actually, we have more in common than not.”
The moment we commit to carry around another person’s heart and see the world through their eyes, we are humbled. And suddenly, the potential for healing and glimmers of redemption are made possible.
We are all flawed, make mistakes, but underneath all that hurt, misunderstanding and hot air, there lives a tender heart that just wants to be seen, honored and loved. I’m convinced of it.
What if our relationships are our spiritual legacy? That somewhere out there Someone is tallying how well we forgive, lift up, and treat those we claim to love during our lifetime. That means our spouses, children, in laws, siblings, and even that black sheep uncle. Maybe this sounds ridiculous to you—good fodder for a novel. But take a moment to reflect. Where else, but in our relationships, do we reveal the best and worst of ourselves? It’s in these delicate exchanges that we expose how petty, short-sighted, selfish, and judgmental we can be. But also how enlightened, compassionate, merciful, and loving we can be. We must never forget that not one of us is beyond judgment, or mercy!
Let’s not wait for the eulogy to realize that life’s meaning and value is found in the quality of love given and received over a lifetime.
Maybe it’s time we ask ourselves: “What kind of fingerprints are we leaving on other people’s hearts?”
Live in Hope,