We’ve all been there with bosses, friends, family. Caught between the rock and the hard place. It’s uncomfortable, it’s maddening, and at times it’s heartbreaking.
We try to avoid those situations. We keep our opinions and thoughts to ourselves, avoid specific topics we know others have issues with, and sometimes we’re successful. Normally, between adults, we can agree to disagree. That, in my humble opinion, is how it should be. But the fact is, not everyone got that memo.
Listen, people aren’t clones. They have different opinions and ideas. They have different motivations and reasons for doing what they do. And, if those parties are family or real friends, they respect what they don’t know as well as what they do. They respect the person.
What do I mean by that? I mean we give our family and real friends the benefit of doubt that their motivations are pure and their reasons might well be something they cannot or choose not to share. Honestly, we do that for people we like. And the more we like them, the more benefit of doubt we grant them. Certainly nothing wrong with that. The more we know the person, the more we know and understand what is motivating their thoughts and actions.
In this type of situation, an issue arises is when what should be mutual respect is not mutual, and reciprocity is absent. A family member or real friend ignores your choices, your reasons for doing what you’re doing, and insists you react in a specific way to a specific topic or be forcefully alienated. In other words, they demand you think or act they way they want you to, or they belittle or give you grief for having a different reaction.
In that position, you have a couple of choices:
* You can do what the other person insists you do, forfeiting your choice and your reasons.
* You can attempt to discuss the situation with your family member or real friend, provided the gauntlet hasn’t already been tossed down and that opportunity removed from the table before you knew an issue existed.
* You can respectfully remove yourself from the situation, preferably without confrontation or a major blowout.
* You can engage in a confrontation or major blowout. (Rarely is this a constructive solution. Actually, I can’t think of a time when in personal relationships it has proven to be a constructive solution. Often it leads to permanent alienation.)
None of the above are optimum choices and none have positive outcomes. But in real life we are placed in these situations and they are absent positive outcomes, so we seek the outcome that is the least painful for all involved. We can’t control another’s actions, but we can control our own. So we seek the highest good for all. We seek a solution which inflicts the less amount of destruction and exhibits the greatest amount of respect—for ourselves and for others. Sometimes, that’s about the best we can do.
Losing a family member or real friend to disagreement is never easy. Nor should it be easy or painless to lose the connection to someone you’ve taken into your heart. The wound runs deep and it can cause bitterness, but only if you let it.
That is also a choice you make. Mostly you’ll wonder why you gave respect but were not respected. That’s a normal reaction, and an inevitable one. But once the shock wears off, it is not one to embrace.
As stated earlier, we cannot control the actions of others, only our own. And it is upon our own actions and reactions we should focus. Acknowledge the worse, but concentrate on the best. Continue to wish well. Continue to pray for insight and wisdom, for blessings for that person.
This might sound hard to do. That’s because it is. But, with time, it becomes easier, and a day does come when you know you’ve chosen the right path. Anger and upset is a heavy burden to carry. When you forgive—even those who never ask for forgiveness—you release that anger and upset.
It isn’t that you ignore it. It isn’t that you choose to let someone else walk all over you. It is that you respect your differences and refuse to fall to anger and upset over something you cannot control. When you forgive, you let go. You don’t carry that anger or upset anymore. You’ve accepted the reality of the situation. And while it might not be as you wished it, it is what it is, and you’ve accepted it and are free to move on with life.
For people of faith, who tend to put challenges on the altar early on, it is comforting to know that God’s got this. He will open eyes, change hearts, or deal with the situation bearing in mind the greatest good for all involved. That is a huge comfort. A huge blessing. When we have done what we can do, we trust God will do the rest—and He will do that best loving all who are involved.
It’s impossible to avoid being caught between the rock and hard place. And that, while unfortunate, is simply a fact of life when interacting with other people. As I told a dear friend not too long ago, “If you interact with others, expect conflict. It’s healthy, it’s normal, it’s inevitable. If you can’t deal with it constructively, become a recluse and get a dog.”
At the time, I thought that was about the best advice I knew to give. I still believe it now.*