Children are taught at an early age to be nice. Get along with others. Share. And don’t fight. As we grow we begin to understand that sometimes we can’t always avoid a fight. I’m only going to take so much before I start to defend myself.
I will fight in defence of loved ones. I will support those brave servants who fight to protect and defend the country I call home. I will fight for principles I believe to be important. Principles like spiritual and moral integrity. I will fight for love over hate and intolerance. I will fight for freedom over oppression.
We are advised to pick our battles, especially in the context of parenting. That’s good advice if you want to preserve your sanity and the emotional health and well being of your family. I thought parenting would come easily to me. I was wrong. I learned to pick my battles.
I stopped fighting over details and began fighting for relationship.
I wanted a life long relationship with my kids and I realized if I kept fighting over stupid little things I would lose not only the fight but also the relationship. In my opinion, nothing is worth sacrificing relationship with my kids. I stopped demanding behaviours in order to look like a good mom to others. I wanted their hearts more than I wanted acceptable behaviour, however that may be defined by outside observers.
I wanted my kids to develop good character traits. Not because I told them to but because living a life of integrity was important to them. I got a lot of criticism short term, but I held a longer view. Now that my kids are adults we may not always agree with one another, but we always respect and love one another. Our family is an unbeatable team with unbreakable bonds. It has been worth all the criticism and all the battles we picked to get here.
There are still absolutes even in our current society where everything seems fluid. I believe in absolute wrong and right. I believe in living by a moral code. I believe in respect and kindness. I believe in doing things for the right reasons. But I also believe my right reason might not be your right reason. I don’t know your story, and it’s not my job to judge you anyway. I choose to assume the best about people. Life is just more pleasant that way. But sometimes the worst happens. Then what? How do we choose what or when to fight? Picking a battle to fight needs to be a carefully thought out choice.
The most obvious answer to that question is the reason behind the phrase Mamma Bear. You mess with my kids and I will take you out.
But sometimes the fight gets personal. Sometimes you get hit at the core of who you are and you have to fight for your very survival. At least that’s what it feels like. Been there – a few times. And I had to fight hard for what mattered. People all around us are in the fight of their lives and we have no idea because fights aren’t always recognizable. Or we are so caught up in ourselves that we just don’t notice.
A collaboration of ideas used to frighten me. I was afraid I would come out looking foolish, or worse than that, wrong. I had so many questions but was afraid to ask them. In fact I was strictly directed to stop asking questions and just obey. There is absolutely a time and place for that.
Potty training – poop here, NOT there.
Teaching a kid to cook – put down the meat cleaver.
Teaching a kid to drive – pull over before you kill us both.
Now I welcome collaboration. I find security and comfort in a variety of ideas. I believe this is a result of my willingness to lay down my ego for the greater good. For example; I am a costume designer for the main theatre productions at my church. I typically do this three times a year – Christmas production, spring dinner theatre, and kids musical theatre camp. Above all, this is my favourite volunteer ministry. After 10+ years, I have enjoyed being mentored as well as mentoring. I have gained confidence in my gifts and talents. I serve a higher purpose than to just showcase myself. I want to help tell a story that starts important conversations. My job is bringing director’s vision to life, not my vision. Often those two perspectives align easily, especially when I am working with a director with whom I have had the privilege of collaborating many times before.
Recently I was asked to be the costume designer for a local theatre company for a production set to stage in December. I have designed on many of their projects over the last several years. I have not worked with this particular director before so I asked to meet with her to get her take on the script. I explained my creative process – to get a clear picture of what she wants to see and make it come to life. It is my design, but it is not driven by my ego. It is driven by a passion to tell the story in the best way possible in order to impact the audience to think, feel, and discuss. That caused her to pause for a minute. Most directors I’ve worked with haven’t had a collaborative experience like that before. Putting aside my ego opens a path to greater creativity. That’s a win for everyone. It may be partly why they keep asking me back to join their design team.
Setting aside Ego opens me up to questions. My vision is open to challenge. Right fighters don’t like to be questioned. They need to control their environment by any means necessary. They need to be right, and for that to happen they need everyone else to be wrong. Questions, challenges, and collaboration are strictly prohibited.
When I realized that my fight to be right meant I was fighting for _________(my kids, my husband, my friend/neighbour/ministry partner/???) to be wrong, that was a real wake up call for me.
I did not like the person I was becoming. I wanted authentic relationships, not controlled relationships, and right fighting wasn’t helping me to achieve that.
When choosing my battles, I first ask myself a few important questions.
- How would I advise my best friend to handle this situation?
It is amazing how much toxicity in a relationship I will ignore. If my best friend was in my shoes, I would often advise them differently.
- How do I want this relationship to look one year from now? Maybe it’s worth the fight to reconcile and restore. Sometimes it’s not. If this is tough to answer, refer to question 1.
- How are my current behaviours/choices affecting those I love most? As much as I like to think my life is my life, it’s not. My choices affect those around me. I need to take a serious look at whether my behaviours/choices are change worthy. For the more intrepid individual, this is a good opportunity to get feedback from friends and family.
- Is it time to get some professional advice? Give this serious consideration. In my opinion, if you have teeth, you need a dentist. If you have a body, you need a doctor. If you have a brain, you need a therapist. If you have a marriage, you need a marriage therapist.
My marriage experienced two major breakdowns, both of the calibre that end most marriages.. We celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary this past spring. That achievement is in no small part due to the fact that we still connect with our marriage therapist, at least once a year, whether we think we need it or not. Doesn’t your most important relationship deserve the same attention and effort as your physical health? Your mental health? Your dental health?
It amuses me how people react when we tell them that we still see our marriage therapist. Eyebrows raise – eyes widen – then comes the typical question: “Are you guys ok? I though you had a great marriage!” We do. Because we intentionally invest time and resources to keep it that way. And that’s worth fighting for.
What are you fighting for?