That’s the definition; you’ll have to guess the word for yourself.
Hubby and I are finishing up a book on marriage. One of the chapters is entitled “Embracing the Stranger”. Here’s one of the passages we highlighted:
Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it. This may sound discouraging, but it is really the road to liberation.”
It then goes on to tell a story about a couple, what each of them brought to the marriage, and how the marriage changed each of them. He was described as a loner who had little or no empathy for others. As a 4th grader, his school counselor described him as “a mild sociopath,” someone who often trampled on the feelings of others because he couldn’t sympathetically imagine what they were feeling. This character flaw caused problems for him because he couldn’t see it for what it was. She was described as “an assertive kind of woman who didn’t easily get her feelings hurt.” If he spouted off at her, she gave him right back. It seemed like they made a great couple.
Until his insensitivity towards her got worse, and she observed how he spoke to others, those who didn’t have a thick skin like she did. She could see how destructive his behavior was to others, including herself. She became disillusioned, he got scared when he saw it, and they began the journey of recovery together. She was the one person who could say to him, “Your words hurt me and I’m going to continue to tell you how I feel until you learn what your words do to people.” And that’s what she did.
Up until this point in his life, people had either just given up and withdrawn from him or had simply attacked him. She stood up to him.
Now, there are a number of ways in which she could choose to stand up to him. One way goes something like this: “LISTEN TO ME YOU %*($@ MORON! THIS IS TRUTH AND I’M GOING TO SCREAM AT YOU UNTIL YOU ACKNOWLEDGE ME BECAUSE THAT’S THE WAY I AM, TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT.”
Another way goes something like this: “I love you. Let me show you what happens when you do A. Please understand that I’m saying hard things because I love you and don’t want you to live a lonely life because of your behavior.”
She chose the second path. And something interesting happened. As she spoke the truth, IN LOVE, COMPASSION AND TENDERNESS, he began to realize that yes, indeed, he had been hurtful towards her, and others as well. He didn’t want to hurt her because he loved her. Because, whatever love is, it does not deliberately, almost gleefully, inflict pain on the beloved. So he began to change, to screen his thoughts before they came out of his mouth as hurtful words.
Simultaneously, she began to realize that her assertive nature had made it impossible for her to depend on anyone. If someone ever let her down, she just dropped them. She wanted to just drop him, but her choice to stay with him forced her to change as well. She eventually learned that she could depend on him, that she could trust him not to hurt her.
After 3 years, he had changed to become a more empathetic, thoughtful person. She had become more gentle and gracious person.
The author calls this transformation the “power of truth.”
I wonder, though, if that truth would have been as powerful if she had chosen option A.
And I wonder, too, if the same process is applicable to other relationships in our lives. And if how we use our “power of truth” might be a factor. Do we fashion that power into a sledgehammer and wield it with impunity? Or do we wrap that power in the ball of cotton a ballet dancer uses to protect her heart, that is, her toes, her feet, her soul…..so that, as the dance progresses, the soul is protected as it changes and grows.