Just those words have so much meaning. This week, Joan means them personally and in such a way as to begin to live in the present and not in the past, as she so often suggests. Think the best of others and that is what you could receive.
Joan: Recently, I received a phone call from a business colleague with whom I have forged a friendship. During the call, she informed me about her recent illness and shared the challenges she endured. After hearing about her suffering and subsequent recovery, I said, “Oh honey, I’m so happy that you’re feeling better.”
After my statement, there was a moment of silence after which she replied, “Please don’t call me honey … it’s very condescending!” With those words there was a noticeable shift in her persona.
I must admit … her response took me by surprise, which was probably evident by my silence. The voice in my head screamed, “What the heck just happened? Why were my well-intended wishes met with scorn?” I had no idea what elicited her response.
Q. How do you use the term “honey”? It seems you would not be condescending in the situation you described, trying to comfort a friend.
Joan: I often refer to those with whom I feel close as “honey” or “sweetie”, but it is never said disrespectfully and is always an expression of affection.
Q. Geez, what did you do? I know I would have been taken aback if that happened to me.
Joan: Respecting her feelings, I apologized and asked what prompted her reaction. She explained that she had many painful experiences in which she was referred to as “honey” in a disparaging way. She said the expression always hurt her and that no one ever said it with kindness. The word was a pain trigger, so she built a wall.
Q. Good gosh, goes to show what we learn when we ask.
Joan: We all have life experiences that stir up emotions and drive our reactions. And when pain is present, it is a natural response to self protect and block out any possible source. But what happens when this becomes our modus operandi?
Q. I think we’ve spoken about being very sensitive before, something I am guilty of. What would you suggest to the person who operates this way?
Joan: Sometimes these walls of protection are useful, however, they can, over time, act like shells that block out happiness.
This woman, in an attempt to eliminate the negative, the bad experience, also blocked out the good, the kindness, the love. By asking me (and probably many others) to stop offering her affection, she barred affection from entering her life. And, without the good, she is left with only the bad. This is something we all do in one way or another!
Q. That is such an enlightening way to think about this. Most people would have walked away a bit mad. But, you took a breath and decided there was something there you could offer as kindness.
Joan: Well, we all have been hurt and have felt pain. But, every time we build a wall in self-preservation to keep us safe, we stop the positive from entering, too. We keep ourselves so insulated that nothing penetrates the exterior. In our attempt to stay safe, we stay isolated. And that is no way to live.
It’s not easy to tear down our wall, especially after being hurt. But, it is a necessity if we are to live life to the fullest. Isolating, keeping affection from entering, blocking kindness and love, only leads to more misery.
Isn’t it time to tear down your wall? It won’t be easy. It will be a laborious task sometimes requiring outside assistance. But, brick by brick you can remove the barrier. And who knows, you just might be able to use the pile of stone to build a foundation for something solid and welcoming.