Lately, I have been playing drama coach to my 5th grade daughter. Not because she is involved in theater … simply because every day in the 5th grade is filled with DRAMA! Do you remember when friendships got more complicated as you grew into your teen years and young adulthood? Funny enough, a lot of adults have never moved past that preteen emotional and intellectual point in their development in regards to personal relationships.
On a daily basis, my daughter and I will discuss why one of her friends is “mad at her” or says mean things about her. We talk about the classmates who are overly clingy and whiny; we think through all the reasons a friend might act two-faced. There are so many complex systems at play in this cauldron of puberty that kids just can’t make sense of it most of the time.
All these coaching sessions brought me to a pondering place of my own: I realized that I continue to see these very same reactions and dissonances among the circles of adults I know. One person is upset that she is not “in” with everyone all the time. Another friend sucks the life out of you because he is always talking about himself. And others have never uttered one positive statement in their lives. Someone always has to be the party pooper, someone is never satisfied, and most people are very, very insecure.
So how do we, as adults, play our parts through the improvisational drama tournaments life throws at us? Here are a few suggestions that I have applied to drama in my own world:
Know who you are.
The best way to remain steady through the tumult of someone’s dramatic scene is to clearly know yourself. Who are you? Are you a person of honor and character? Are you a peacemaker? Are you a Christian? If you are a Christian, then you have been given all the resources you need through Jesus to love people and respond to their mess with peace and grace. By having a firm hold on your own identity, you are able to respond to someone else’s whirlwind of emotional chaos from a strong reference point in reality. If you are uncertain of your identity and who God made you to be, just ask Him. Sit with Him awhile and let Him show you the wonderful, intricate way He designed your spirit, personality, talents and emotions. Hearing it straight from the Father does something very healing for your heart and gives you confidence to really be who He says you are. When you are certain of your identity, the swirling situations of craziness are much more easily discerned.
Use every opportunity for honest communication.
Open, honest communication is a very good thing. If you find yourself in a dramatic scene where someone is accusing you (falsely or rightly), see that moment as your chance for dialogue. Explaining your heart and your intentions is a good place to start. If the tension has escalated, the other person might not be able to receive anything you say … but you should say it anyway. Apologies are a good place to start because they open locked doors. Even if you are not in the wrong, an apology for unintentionally causing hurt to someone is a way to reestablish connection. And at that point, caring for your antagonist’s heart is more important than who is right or wrong; quelling an argument or conflict happens much quicker when you are able to connect heart to heart.
Understand where your part ends.
If you cannot resolve your issue after doing everything in your power to make the situation right, then you should exit the scene. You can only play your part, and your partner can only play his part. Neither of you can force a response or a resolution from each other. There are some times when you must leave a conflict for another day, but if you can assure the other person of your desire to figure out how to work through it, your chances of a future resolution will be higher. Be aware: Continuing to press someone or manipulate their feelings crosses the line of where your part ends. You have entered into their space and are now telling them how they should feel or think. This is a symptom of codependency. Stay in your own space and fill out your part to its fullest, but let the other person fill his out on his own.
Give grace and more grace.
This ambiguous “grace” is actually the oil in the gears of life. Without it, we all get jammed and eventually broken. Grace, the undeserved favor and blessing we receive from God through Jesus, is meant to be transferred through us to other people. Extending grace to your friends when they act like idiots is the best way to close the rift between you. I am not condoning passivity or overlooking emotional abuse; conflicts need to be addressed and resolved for a relationship to work. But, grace should be your default setting because that is exactly how God responds to you when you’re an idiot. We all say dumb things, we all hurt each other — most of the time unknowingly — and we all desperately need grace.
Let people go.
Somehow we think that being treated fairly is our most important right, and if we do not receive the justice we feel is due, we lose our ever-loving minds. In case you haven’t discovered it yet, people will hurt you and treat you very unfairly, and they will get away with it. So, what can you do? Really, this goes back to understanding your part and knowing that you cannot force a desired response from someone else. You are only responsible for you. When you encounter broken and messed-up people (which is actually every person on the planet), you must love them fiercely but hold them loosely. Give them your best, be honest and clear, but keep an open hand. When they pull away from you, let them go. The most wonderful relationships are found when each person feels confident in their safety to connect and disconnect without retribution. If you feel that your friends always owe you something (a call, a thank-you note, other tokens of gratitude, a returned favor), you are revealing your hidden control-freak; and you will squeeze the life out of your relationships with that kind of iron grip. Take a deep breath, exhale and open up your hands to let people come and go as they please. Then when someone comes close and connects with your heart voluntarily, the air between you is clear. Forced love is not love. Forced friendship is not friendship. Truly meaningful connection happens when free wills agree to move in the same direction together.
I’m not sure when the 5th grade drama tournament will wrap up, but I will do my very best to end dramatic scenes in my own life by doing all those things listed above. I decided a long time ago that I don’t play emotional games and I refuse to be manipulated by others. I am me and that’s all I can be. I don’t try to find my significance in friendships, in accomplishments or in status — I have found my greatest significance in time spent with Jesus, my Savior. He reminds me who I am, who He made me to be. He brings great fulfillment to my life, especially when I find myself in a season of loneliness. And He leads me out of the drama and chaos of life into green pastures and beside still waters.