Thursday, April 14, 2016
Thoughtful About . . . To Each His Own
It's no secret that there are a lot of different types of people in the world. That we all have different personalities. Different outlooks. That there introverts and extroverts and whole personality-naming-systems with letters to label each part of your personality.
Yet we all expect others to be like us. Ever notice that?
It's not that we don't recognize people are different. It's just that when it comes to handling situations . . . when it comes to dealing with grief . . . when it comes to solving problems . . . we cannot fathom that our way is, not just the best way, but the only way.
For instance. I'm not a neat-freak. I am capable of cleaning, and cleaning well. But I do not feel a daily drive to do this. I feel a daily drive to reach a certain word-count goal. I feel a daily drive to pray with my children. I feel a daily drive to do a certain amount of design work. I feel a daily drive to spend time with my husband. Housework slides. Which means that occasionally it gets to the point where I just can't handle it anymore and I get a bit snappy with the rest of my family for never picking up, and I go on a cleaning rampage. That doesn't happen often. More often is that once a week I set aside time to take care of the whole house at once.
Those in my family who have the neat-freak drive have tried to tell me that my house would be more manageable if I cleaned, say, twenty minutes every day. And I'm sure that, objectively, this is true. But the thought of finding twenty minutes every day to clean, when I'm going without a pause from 5:30 in the morning until 9:00 at night, Stresses. Me. Out. And the daily stress of, "Ah, man, when am I going to pick up??" adds up, for me, to more stress than that of finding one day a week to do it. Because that's how I am. It's who I am. Is it right or wrong? I'm going to go with no. I don't think my cleaning schedule or lack thereof constitutes a moral dilemma.
And with something like cleaning, most people will shrug their shoulders and say, "Whatever works for you. To each his own."
But when it comes to more serious topics, people are less likely to say that. As I've watched two different people grieve in two very different ways over the last couple months, though, I can't help but think that it's about the serious things that we ought to be more willing to understand that people are different.
A lady in my church recently lost a husband. And she knew herself well enough to know what she needed to do after this: establish her schedule and get out of the house. This has helped her cope with the loss. She has good days and bad days, and that's to be expected. But she's doing what she needs to do.
My mother-in-law is a very different type of person. When her father passed away, to whom she'd been the sole caretaker for years, everyone was ready with the same advice: "Tell her to get out."
But to my MIL, getting out is not her feel-better thing. Getting out can cause her stress. As long as I've known her, she's been more likely to want to stay home than to get out. So while, yes, taking my daughter to ballet is something she has volunteered to do on those days she needs a break from her house, what ministers to her more is something like working in her garden.
And that's okay.
For some of us, people help. For some of us, people hurt.
But if everyone were shouting at my MIL "GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! That's what you need!" how do you think that would make her feel? Pressured. Frustrated. Like a failure. She'd start wondering if she's wrong to not want to go out. Which would just upset her more.
Is that healthy? Is that what anyone would be trying to achieve by giving her that advice?
What it comes down to is that there's no right way to handle emotions--because emotions are different for all of us. My instinct is not to call someone when I'm having a problem. My instinct is not to cry when things go wrong. My instinct is not to throw myself into a crowd when I'm upset. Because when I do those things, they make it worse.
I try, in my writing, to examine this now and again. And when we're engrossed in the pages of someone else's story, we can see it. Because we know their thoughts. In life, we don't have that advantage.
So before I judge anyone for the way they handle their problems, their emotions, their griefs, their joys, I need to stop. I need to consider who they are. I need to wonder what they need. And rather than trying to force them into my mold . . . I need to instead ask, "How can I help them where they are? How they are?"
Sometimes that means joining them at lunch at a restaurant. And sometimes it means coming alongside them in the garden.
And sometimes it means letting them know you're praying and letting them quietly do the same.