Courage to Look Inward, Courage to Love
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
Relationship dynamics are like a dance with each partner moving with the other, knowing how to lead and follow, how to make the other shine. This plays the other way too. Relationship conflict involves much stepping on feet and missed catches.
Sometimes we can correct bad choreography with better communication skills. But more often, each partner’s relationship with themselves makes the most difference. For an example, meet Pat and Dale.
Dale blames others for almost everything in life that goes wrong. Pat internalizes blame for almost every problem and happens to be conveniently available for Dale’s blame. So when life happens, both join in blaming Pat, who becomes depressed and emotionally exhausted. Dale wants Pat fixed.
Now before calling a divorce lawyer for hapless Pat, consider Dale’s burden: terror of the inner life. Within Dale’s soul reside memories of humiliation, isolation, and overwhelming emotional pain largely independent of Pat’s shortcomings and errors. Dale may look like the one in charge on the outside, but inside Dale is a toddler lost in Wal-Mart.
Unwilling to look inward, Dale controls people in the environment to avoid ever feeling lost and alone. Unwilling to feel vulnerable and out-of-control, Dale stokes the fires of that empowering emotion, anger. Watch out, Pat.
However, certain fears of inner experience plague Pat too. Pat moves more freely in the inner world, but avoids supposedly forbidden fruit there from the Tree of the Knowledge of Being Lovable. Believing that one must always strive to earn love by being good, Pat fears that the fruit may cause moral complacency.
That might make Pat look like Dale, which Pat secretly considers a fate worse than death. Combine that with Pat’s difficulty loving the self, and Pat’s heart goes cold. That makes Dale feel even more like a toddler lost in Wal-Mart. We know what Dale does then.
Both partners have inner work to do. Dale needs to overcome the fear of looking inward in the first place – no small task. Pat needs to embrace the beloved self and trust God to lead Pat to goodness through that embrace, not in spite of it. For both, this inner work leads to new ways of relating to others, humble ways based on love, not fear.
Translate, “Blessed are the meek,” to read, “Blessed are those who face inner and outer adversaries with gentle strength.” The strength comes from looking inward faithfully and finding oneself loved, and the gentleness from compassion for the beloved self. Love received overflows into more empathy and kindness for others. Forgiving the ones who hurt or disappoint us, even if we must set boundaries, follows naturally.
Venturing inward takes courage and commitment to love. If you see something of Dale and Pat in yourself, pray about it, and start the journey. It’s the road Jesus still walks. You need not go alone.
Get Free Resources
Subscribe to my blog and I will send you a free digital copy of theintroduction and study guide to my book Blessed at the Broken Places.