Saying sorry is great, but try to live a life where you need to do it less.
God here I am again at anchor in South East Bay. Mayor Island New Zealand. Early morning. Mandolin rocking gently at anchor. Kids still asleep up on deck. Awesome. Beautiful day. Sun already beating down. Gulls calling. Beach line Pohutokawa showing red for a kiwi Christmas. Beautiful!
It is. It’s just as I planned.
How do you mean?
I mean I planned this.
But what do you mean by ‘this’?
I mean I planned this day for you. You and your kids in a place you love, doing something you love. Enjoy Mark.
God I’ve just reread that little exchange between us. As the conversation took place I was working hard to capture your words, making sure I wrote them down correctly. But now that I read again, I realise there’s so much more meaning in your words, for me anyway. Much more meaning than I realised as I wrote them.
Mark isn’t that the way for you in so many conversations? You realise AFTER your conversations (with me and with others) what was really being said? You analyse their words and your own AFTER the conversation.
I guess…. Are you saying you want me to change something about the way I do that?
Yes. Rossi was right, she urged you to be aware of what the other person was really meaning, really feeling. Rather than think back on the meaning behind what they said, to be aware of it as they speak. Like right now. To be conscious of the effect of your words and actions during the exchange, right then in the moment. Now. Not later.
You’re a thinker, an analyser, but also wildly impetuous. You like to act now and review your actions later. You happily take risks in a conversation. You’re comfortable that your words and actions now might prove less than desirable later. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t affect others. But it does affect others!
It’s that effect on others than concerns me Mark. The damage that you do, often completely unaware, by preferring to assess the wisdom of an action or a comment after the fact. You act in haste, and repent at leisure. Repenting is a great trait, but even better is a life that needs less of it.
How do I do it God? I mean how is it possible to analyse and review words and actions, mine and others, in the moment? It all seems so big and confusing at the time. Overwhelming. So I tend to act now in self-preservation, hoping for the best.
Exactly, overwhelmed by the moment, you tend to act in self-preservation, hoping for the best. You need to think more and fear less. Mark fear motivates so many of your actions and comments.
Really? I thought I was quite strong.
You are, but it’s often courage in response to fear. You choose to respond to fear with strength. You attack what you think is happening, not necessarily what is actually happening.
Sometimes it’s fear that they are not saying what they really think, other times it’s fear that their words spell disaster for you. You need to change your perspective. If you were to see what others say and do differently, you’d see more of what was really going on. You’d see what was REALLY being said to you. And your responses would often be entirely different as a result.
Can I hear you saying that the ‘different perspective’ you want me to have is to ask you? To ask you to show me what’s really being said, or what’s really going on in the situation?
Absolutely. You tend to act in self-protection. Some people self-protect by turning in on themselves, by going quiet. Others strike out. You’re in the second group; when you’re under attack, you attack back. When you think a person is rejecting you, or a situation is going against you, you take action. You attack back with words or actions designed to ward off what you think is an attack. Often you’re unaware you’re doing it. Which doesn’t excuse the action. It’s an unconscious response to fear of attack. People can say something quite innocent to you, and if you ‘feel’ that it’s an attack you go into counter-attack mode without even realising it. You say and do things in response, in a primeval state of self-protection, without even thinking. You act and speak now, intending to review your actions later and repent if necessary. It’s better to review your words and actions before, or as they happen, rather than much later.
It’s just a matter of thinking, in the moment. Of pausing and taking the time to remember the third person. Me.
I want you to listen, in every situation, to what I’m saying. See me as the teacher. When the other person says something to you, look across to me and ask in your mind, ‘is there anything you want to tell me about what they’re saying?’
People are so important Mark. You MUST take the time to do this. So much of the life you live now is a direct consequence of acting like this in the past. You always believed you were under attack, and so you attacked back. You weren’t under attack at all. But you didn’t know that because you didn’t ask me. You had absolutely no idea that I would speak to you in your day to day situations about the things you feared.
Without even realising it, you were living a lie. The father of lies had persuaded you that people were always out to get you, that life was against you. Rather than turn in on yourself and accept, you chose to fight. You chose to fight the people and situations you thought were against you. Your courage is admirable Mark. Your readiness to fight laudable. The problem was there was no need to fight.
The people were NOT against you, they were for you. They loved and adored you. The liar, if you let him, will concoct a whole new world view. And you did let him. Situations weren’t against you either. Most of what happened around you was engineered or allowed by me for your good. If you had looked across to me and asked ‘what’s going on here?’ you would have known how to act. Your words would have built people up, and you would have allowed situations to build you.
What should I do?
Learn. Look across to me and ask, ‘what should I be thinking about what they’re saying?’ or ‘what’s going on in this situation?’
God I don’t like this conversation. Not a bit.
Because it sounds like unnecessarily severe self-analysis. Like an ‘after-the-fact apology’ of sorts. Like too much introspection, like navel-gazing.
Not at all. If you listen to this, and start practising it, at first it’ll be extremely difficult. Your ‘need’ to be constantly surveilling for signs of attack will still want to dominate. You’ll need to supress that.
Wow. I thought I’d learned to do that already. After four years of trying to keep my mouth shut when under attack I thought I’d learned.
Why have you been trying to do that, to keep your mouth shut when under attack?
To stop damaging people. To undo the damage I’ve done.
Good. Here’s the next step. Think about what you just said. ‘You’re trying to learn to keep your mouth shut when under attack.’ The problem is that your mouth shutting, and your far more self-controlled responses are still coming from a perception that you’re under attack. You’re not. YOU’RE NOT UNDER ATTACK. Not by me, and not by people, and not by life. You are under attack by him, but ONLY him. And his attack is so subtle. One of his most powerful attacks is to trick you into thinking that people and situations are attacking you. They’re not. He is.
Wow this is all over the place.
Of course, I’m speaking through your mind, through you, and you ARE all over the place.
Is that bad?
Not at all. I like to use the imperfect. And don’t take that as a slight. Nothing is perfect. EVERYTHING around you, people, things, situations – it’s all imperfect. But it’s also great, fantastic, wonderful. Imperfect is how I made it. Which means that imperfect is GREAT.
So God you’re saying the key is that even though I’ve spent these last years working on controlling my responses, I need to recognise more accurately what I’m responding to?
Yes exactly. And so often what you think you’re responding to – rejection by others, situations stacked against you – is not what’s actually happening at all. In fact the people are often on your side, and the situation is engineered by me for your good. And if you make the choice to listen to what I’m saying, about the situation, and what I want you to think about what people are saying, then you‘ll see things completely differently. You’ll realise you’re not under attack. There’ll be no need to exercise self-control and refuse to counter-attack. You’ll see that because you’re not under attack, there’s no requirement for you to counter-attack at all. You’ll relax. You’ll be able to drop your guard and give others and situations time to display what they really mean. You’ll be able to look across to me, right then, and ask ‘what does is this person really saying?’ and ‘what’s really going on here?’
Go with it Mark. It will change your entire life.