Cold Shoulder / Silent Treatment

Giving the lens the cold shoulder

I know how to give the most vicious, wicked “cold shoulder” and “silent treatment” (CS/ST). I activate CS/ST when someone does something to upset me. Sometimes, the people on the receiving end are caught off guard because they have no clue why I am upset with them. This bewilderment makes CS/ST especially effective in its caustic damage. Also, CS/ST makes me feel powerful. I indulge in a crazed, cruel pleasure in hurting people.

The above paragraph is a confession. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). I’m confessing to you and every person with access to the World Wide Web how malicious I have been and still can be.

***

I have many job titles: teacher, editor, budget manager, house cleaner. Chauffeur is one of my favorite titles. I don’t consider driving my sons to their various activities a tedious chore but a pleasure. I actually like taking them to art school or the library or track practice.

“Don’t worry if practice runs late,” I tell my son. “I always have a book with me, so I’ll read in the car.” I have even dropped him off at an hour-long event and stayed there, taking advantage of a full hour of reading or writing time, instead of going home.

But in one case, I gave him 12:15 as a firm pick-up time. He misunderstood and thought I meant I’d be there at 12:15 but, as in other cases, would read a book and wait if he ran late.

Not only did I have no book, but my other son was with me, and we had other errands to run in a short time. At 12:45, after waiting and working myself up to a fuming (but silent) rage, I went into the building to get him.

He had no idea.

I activated my CS/ST at full throttle.

He tried pleasantly chatting about his time with the teachers at the event. I answered curtly: “Oh.”

We went to drop off recycles. I opened the door to get the recycles out of the trunk, and he said, “Do you want me to help?”

I pretended not to hear him and shut the car door without reply. Silent treatment. Caustic.

Next stop: Goodwill, to discard unwanted books and clothes. The same thing happened there: “Should I get out and help?” he asked.

Cold shoulder. Icy silence.

Final stop: pick up Dad after his soccer game at the park. The game was not yet over when we arrived, so the poor kid was trapped in close quarters with his mother emanating shock waves of malice. I am an expert in CS/ST tactics.

How could I have been so cruel to my own child? If he were two or three years old instead of a high school senior, he would have been traumatized and in need of counseling. Not until hours later did I explain why I was angry. Not until days later did I finally apologize and repent.

When my husband and I married, we spoke our own vows in addition to the traditional ones (for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health). One of our custom vows: “To be honest and open with one another in an attitude of love and humility.”

In other words, don’t hold grudges. Talk it through instead.

Ann Kroeker recently offered her readers 6 Questions to Ask Yourself. Question #3 is “How do I need to change?”

I need to change by shedding my CS/ST habit and the deranged satisfaction I get from the “power” it gives me. There is far more power in love and humility.

What is the opposite of Cold Shoulder? Leaning toward the person in conflict. Pressing past cruelty’s false sense of superiority and control. Asking myself, as a friend advised, “What’s really important here?” Putting the relationship before my selfishness.

What is the opposite of Silent Treatment? Quick communication about what’s bothering me. Being honest and open, with an attitude of love and humility.

God, help me to change.

———-

Click to tweet: There is far more power in love and humility.

For The High Calling community writing theme: Reconciliation at Work. UPDATE: This post was featured at The High Calling.

Also, don’t miss Glynn Young’s perspective on Change at The High Calling.

Photo credit: Juhan Sonin via Flickr Creative Commons

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Making Paper

Wood-shreds, cotton, flax, grass—
plant fibers beaten to expose
inner life, so old life will pass

into something new. Water-softened,
washed, mixed into slurry, ready to be
made and molded. And pressed.

Sheet bared to the sun, blessed
and made useful in the drying,
in the exposure to the Sun.

I have a memory; every crease remains,
intricate folds of experience
shaping origami me. He unfolds,

some parts tucked in so tightly
I tear in the unfolding. I tear
in every unfolding, but

His hand smoothes over.
Surrendered in the unfolding, I wait
and He writes.

Spirit-ink penetrates, bleeds
all the way through as nib makes
graceful strokes recording
flourishes of kindness, goodness,
grace on me.

00002

I Am Not Mrs. Mallard

For The High Calling book club on
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
by Timothy Keller
Join us this week as Laura Boggess leads us in discussing the Introduction.

TheHighCalling.org Christian Blog Network

Poor girl. Knowing no other way to relieve her anger, she stomped with both feet and all her might. She jumped, knees-to-chest, to give more force to the stomping. She even climbed a few stairs to add some altitude and oomph to her stomps.

This was not a two-year-old in a tantrum. This was a young mother in her late twenties. This was me.

“Slow to anger” was not among my top ten descriptions. But why was I so stompin’ mad?

Our firstborn was on the mellow side. At eighteen months old, he generally obeyed and was often quietly content. But for a several-month period, he would not come when I said to come.

On The Day of the Stomping, I was kneeling at the door with his shoes, ready to put them on him and get in the car to run errands.

“Please come, and I’ll put on your shoes.”

He looked at me, unmoving. My blood, quick to boil, was already bubbling.

Come here,” I repeated. Still he did not come.

I will spare you all the details (except the stomping described above). I became especially angry whenever I said to come and he didn’t—all because of Mrs. Mallard in Make Way for Ducklings.

“Take good care of the ducklings.”

“Don’t you worry,” said Mrs. Mallard. “I know all about bringing up children.” And she did.

She taught them how to swim and dive.

She taught them to walk in a line, to come when they were called, and to keep a safe distance from bikes and scooters and wheels.

When at last she felt perfectly satisfied with them, she said one morning: “Come along, children. Follow me.” Before you could wink an eyelash Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack fell into line, just as they had been taught.

– from Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey

Mrs. Mallard taught them to “come when they were called.” And “before you could wink an eyelash” all the ducklings obeyed, falling into line “just as they had been taught.”

My child would not come when he was called! And he sure didn’t obey immediately like her ducklings did. If Mrs. Mallard can do it, why can’t I? Frustration and anger followed, quick as that eyelash wink.

I wish I had slowed down long enough to say to myself, “Um, hello? You’re comparing yourself to a duck.”

Frankly, I compared myself to real human mothers, too. But for me, I think the bigger problem was that I wanted to look good. That Mrs. Mallard, you know, looks pretty good when her little Jack & Co. are following her in a neat line.

mrsmallard

I wouldn’t have yelled at my young children as much as I did had I been more concerned about what they need than about how good (or bad) they made me look as a mother. I needed to view parenting as a calling not for my own benefit but for theirs. I needed selflessness.

When I started reading Timothy Keller’s Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, I decided to read it in search of ideas on how to be a better mother (for that is currently my vocation, my calling, my work). I approached it as if it were a book on parenting.

Turns out, it is.

If I had to summarize this book in one word, I would pick selflessness. Here are some parts I’ve marked:

…a reappropriation of the idea of a vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one’s own advancement. [quoting Robert Bellah]

And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests.

Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person and…undermines society itself.

When we work, we are…the “fingers of God,” the agents of his providential love for others. This understanding elevates the purpose of work from making a living to loving our neighbor and at the same time releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves.

– Keller, pages 18-21 (emphases mine).

And that’s just from the Introduction. I’m now about halfway through the book, and Keller’s focus on selflessness remains consistent. This is a parenting book for me.

If I think of my work, my parenting, as a contribution for my children’s good and not a means to my own advancement, as a mission of service instead of self-fulfillment, as a way to love my children instead of proving myself, then I will be more of the mother I should be.

And I do pray that when God says to them, “Follow Me,” they will come when they are called.

Anonymous

(All photos are part of this set at my Flickr account.)

This is my first opportunity to use the 4000-cubic-inch Kelty backpack they gave me for my birthday. We are always curious about how much our packs weigh, so we weigh them before leaving the house. Charles’s, as usual, comes in heaviest (25% of his body weight), then Derek’s (22%), Titus’s (20%), mine (17%), and Byron’s (13%).

IMG_3248

After a two-hour drive we begin at the Venable Trailhead, 9000 feet elevation. By tomorrow we will gain 3000 feet more. The last time we went backpacking at “the Sangres,” it was September, and the wildflowers were already dead. This time, they are at their peak. I wonder at the plants and animals in this wilderness. All creation really does sing His praise.

Of course I know the Columbine, our state flower . . .

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IMG_3385

. . . and the Aspen, which every Coloradan knows . . .

aspen leaf 7/2011

IMG_3427

. . . but, ignorant of birds, bugs and botany, I don’t know what anything else is called up here. I can’t identify them, so these are anonymous beauties. What are the bushes we bushwhack through? What kind of bird makes that two-tone call? Whose are those faces greeting us from the trailside (“Welcome! Welcome to the mountains!”) Are those moth caterpillars that keep greeting us from midair?

IMG_3405IMG_3402

tree and succulent-looking ground cover

white flower with bug

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IMG_3308

IMG_3313

IMG_3316

IMG_3406

IMG_3356

IMG_3353

IMG_3337

IMG_3333

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yellow flower with bugs

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What is the name of those little trumpets heralding in unison, “The Lord is good! The Lord is good!”

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I don’t know their names. I only know them by where they are; these wildflowers, this ground cover, those birds are the wonders I always see at “the Sangres”—the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

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I, too, want to be known by la sangre de Cristo—the blood of Christ. I want the world to identify me by what Jesus has done for me on the cross. I want to be an anonymous beauty, made beautiful by wearing Christ’s righteousness.

If Jesus is known by His scars,
may I be known by His blood, known
by la sangre de Cristo.

Father, I ask again, may it be no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

“He must increase; I must decrease.”
(John 3:30)

(For the Summer Vacation writing project hosted by Charity Singleton. Visit Charity’s place for more community posts!)

Anonymous

(All photos are part of this set at my Flickr account.)

This is my first opportunity to use the 4000-cubic-inch Kelty backpack they gave me for my birthday. We are always curious about how much our packs weigh, so we weigh them before leaving the house. Charles’s, as usual, comes in heaviest (25% of his body weight), then Derek’s (22%), Titus’s (20%), mine (17%), and Byron’s (13%).

IMG_3248

After a two-hour drive we begin at the Venable Trailhead, 9000 feet elevation. By tomorrow we will gain 3000 feet more. The last time we went backpacking at “the Sangres,” it was September, and the wildflowers were already dead. This time, they are at their peak. I wonder at the plants and animals in this wilderness. All creation really does sing His praise.

Of course I know the Columbine, our state flower . . .

IMG_3387

IMG_3385

. . . and the Aspen, which every Coloradan knows . . .

aspen leaf 7/2011

IMG_3427

. . . but, ignorant of birds, bugs and botany, I don’t know what anything else is called up here. I can’t identify them, so these are anonymous beauties. What are the bushes we bushwhack through? What kind of bird makes that two-tone call? Whose are those faces greeting us from the trailside (“Welcome! Welcome to the mountains!”) Are those moth caterpillars that keep greeting us from midair?

IMG_3405IMG_3402

tree and succulent-looking ground cover

white flower with bug

IMG_3268

IMG_3308

IMG_3313

IMG_3316

IMG_3406

IMG_3356

IMG_3353

IMG_3337

IMG_3333

IMG_3332

IMG_3320

IMG_3318

yellow flower with bugs

IMG_3408IMG_3409

What is the name of those little trumpets heralding in unison, “The Lord is good! The Lord is good!”

IMG_3419

IMG_3418

IMG_3416

I don’t know their names. I only know them by where they are; these wildflowers, this ground cover, those birds are the wonders I always see at “the Sangres”—the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

IMG_3372

IMG_3349

IMG_3350

IMG_3348

I, too, want to be known by la sangre de Cristo—the blood of Christ. I want the world to identify me by what Jesus has done for me on the cross. I want to be an anonymous beauty, made beautiful by wearing Christ’s righteousness.

If Jesus is known by His scars,
may I be known by His blood, known
by la sangre de Cristo.

Father, I ask again, may it be no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

“He must increase; I must decrease.”
(John 3:30)

(Linking with Laura Boggess for…)

Pride Is Not a Cat

This may come as a surprise, but pride
is not the strutting Siamese
swishing a curl in her swaying tail.
No, she is not that, for pride
has many more lives than the nine
they give to a cat.

And I think I get
what the apostle meant
when he said I die
daily.

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

(Romans 8:12-13)

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Enchanting Selflessness

For The High Calling book club:
Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
by Guy Kawasaki
Laura Boggess leads our May 9 discussion here.

I am not who I was. I remember when I was perfectly happy working in a dark lab all day with minimal human contact. Sometimes I would eat lunch at odd hours so that the lunch room would be empty. Later, when our first child was an infant, I turned down invitations to progressive dinners and cookie exchanges, content instead to sit with my baby and his fridge-magnet letters or turn page after page of The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged, of course). In conversation, I told nothing about what was deep in myself.

Then came 2004. Something happened during that last pregnancy, a one-eighty shift in my emotional makeup. It wasn’t just a pregnancy thing; the change was permanent. I became what I called “the new me.”

I wanted girlfriends. I wanted relationships. In conversation, instead of holding back behind a black wall, I quickly opened up to others, revealing my deep feelings and thoughts.

I’m not sure if it really was a “new me,” or simply a me that was already there but denied all along.

Whatever it was, the change was intense, almost fierce. I wanted friends and went after them hard. In particular, I sought out older women to be a spiritual mentors.

It didn’t always work out. One was diagnosed with cancer shortly after we agreed to meet together. Another, after about a year of what I considered the closest female friendship I ever had so far, made an abrupt, unexplained, clean break. And those are just two examples.

I knew from the Bible itself that this kind of relationship was a good thing, so I wondered again and again, for years, Lord, why won’t You give me this kind of relationship?

It took several years before I realized that what I wanted, I wanted selfishly. Who is an older woman that can help me? Who is a friend that can bless me? Who will be that soul-companion and mentor for me? (I knew that, too, from the Bible: I ask and do not receive because I ask with the wrong motives.)

This help came from God:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

(Hebrews 13:17)

The relationships I was seeking should have mutual benefit. Their benefit: “let them do this with joy. My benefit: “they keep watch over your souls.” And if they don’t benefit, neither will I (“for this will be unprofitable for you”).

This sounds a lot like what Guy Kawasaki calls “enchantment”:

When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.

– Guy Kawasaki, Enchantment, page 2.

I was going about friendship all wrong. I had in mind only how I would benefit. But making friends is about mutual blessing.

Enchantment is not about getting your way solely for your own benefit. To the contrary, if you want enchantment to last, other people must benefit, too.

– Kawasaki, page 4.

I now have a standard prayer regarding relationships. I pray it whenever I’m about to have a coffee date or a phone call with a friend. I pray it for those who are dear to me. By God’s grace, I pray it with them (not me) in mind. The prayer is this:

Father, how can I be a better friend to ____? Father, how can I be a blessing to ____?

Sometimes, the answer is: step back. And I have to surrender to His will and accept that.

But, guess what? Turns out, when I approach friendships selflessly, the blessing on both ends is greater. It works. Selfless friendship is enchanting.

Easter Prerequisite

In shopping malls, men and women wear long fuzzy ears and a bunny mouth fixed in a static grin. Parents and grandparents with their children stand in line for a ten-dollar photo with the Easter Bunny. A shopping woman with a tasteful eye finds the perfect centerpiece. Mothers of girls buy matching dresses with bows.

Two brothers buy ice, beer and Pepsi for the cooler. A boy mows the lawn while his brother wipes down plastic adirondacks for the backyard picnic. Their aunt will hide plastic pastel eggs, and the children hope the ones they find will contain the chocolate Reese’s kind.

A couple buys whole cloves and pineapples for the ham preparation. Another prefers to reserve a ham from Honeybaked. One family makes tamales, another rolls twenty dozen lumpia for deep-frying later.

A family makes their traditional Resurrection Rolls, sealing bread dough around marshmallows and rolling them in cinnamon-sugar. The oven door opens, and sticky fingertips break open the rolls, hollow like the empty tomb and marshmallow-sweet on the bottom.

The preacher prepares his sermon. A youth pastor converts the Youth Annex into the annual “Walk of the Cross.” Congregants sign up for a time slot for this incredible experience. A thirty-voice choir rehearses, and rehearses, and rehearses. Men who will be disciples in an Easter morning drama memorize lines.

These are Easter preparations. Some call it Resurrection Day, and we prepare for the Resurrection! Hallelujah!

As I consider how we and people around us prepare for Easter, I recall a conversation I had with a fifth grader.

In 5th grade Sunday school, my husband and I taught Acts. “What happened to Eutychus while Paul gave a message?” I asked, to review the previous week’s chapter.

“He rose from the dead,” a student answered.

“Right. But before that?” I prompted.

But the student knew and insisted he was right. “He rose from the dead.” Then, adding more details to support the correctness of his answer: “Paul raised him from the dead after he fell out the window.”

I said, “Okay! That’s the answer I wanted: he died. He fell out a third-story window and died.”

The student insisted, “But my answer was right! I said he rose from the dead!”

“True, but I’m saying—in order to be raised from the dead, you have to die first.” (We have nit-picking exchanges like this too often.)

This is the conversation flashback I have as I write about what Easter means to me, and I meditate on the fact that only one thing is required for Easter. It’s not the fancy brunch, or the pretty clothes, or the chocolate eggs, or even the church services. The only requirement for Easter is death. To prepare for the Resurrection, you have to die first.

This was Jesus’ Easter preparation. The Lord had to die first. To get ready for His Resurrection Day, he lived a mystery, entering a mother’s womb. He emerged a babe, in the likeness of man, the very man He created in the likeness of God. He labored among us and dwelt among us. He wept and bled, and He suffered and died, for there is no Resurrection unless there is first death.

So will I prepare, then. I pull out my sheet of Death-to-Self verses and meditate on them. I pray, asking for help and grace to shed myself of all that He does not want in me.

There is no resurrection unless there is first death.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:
sexual immorality,
impurity,
lust,
evil desires
and greed, which is idolatry . . .

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these:
anger,
rage,
malice,
slander,
and filthy language from your lips.
Do not lie to each other,
since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

– Colossians 3:5,8-11

(Joining the communities hosted by Ann (Wednesday: “The Practice of Easter”) and Bonnie (Thursday: “Share what Easter means to you”). Click on their badges below to read more community posts on Easter!

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Wounded Help (or What to Give Up When I Fast)

The one who frees prisoners,
who frees the oppressed,
who lightens burdens,
who clothes the needy,
who feeds the hungry,
who helps the troubled,

is himself wounded
and in need
of protection.


Weakness neither disqualifies nor exempts me from service.

I read about fasting. I read that the kind of fasting God desires is denying self to help others. The true fast is to give up Self and help the imprisoned, the oppressed, the hungry, the homeless. Here’s what I read:

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

(Isaiah 58:6-7)

The result? Here are some:

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”

(Isaiah 58:9)

Healed wounds. God’s protection.

This means that they were wounded to begin with! The helpers were themselves in need of protection! Helping others does not require being trouble-free myself. Even (or especially) from a position of weakness, I can help others.

This corrects two aspects of my erroneous thinking:

1. The “Poor Me” Syndrome. This is when I think, “I’m so weak myself. How can I possibly help someone else? There’s no way I can be a blessing to others.”

2. The Bitter, Give-to-Receive Sydrome. This is when I think, “I’m so weak myself—and people expect me to help others? They should be the ones helping me!”

The Isaiah passage helps eliminate both mindsets. Weakness neither disqualifies nor exempts me from giving help. God not only empowers me to help when I am weak, He also expects me to help when I am weak. And in both cases, it’s by His guidance and strength:

Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.

(Isaiah 58:10-11)

A true fast must involve giving up Self. Who else but the selfless can serve others in the midst of their own woundedness and weakness?

Father, help me be selfless so that it is truly not I who live, but Christ in me. Give me godly self-unconsciousness. Help me to love.