Trusting the Connection
A recent visit to Alaska cemented relationships formed 40 years ago, when my wife and I were among other young professionals seeking career traction in the Last Frontier. Though Elaine and I hadn’t seen some of the people in more than a decade, they uniformly seemed surprised that we could fit into their lives again so effortlessly, without fuss or a hint of conflict.
Maybe they were surprised that we weren’t more fussy about the beds offered us or the food they cooked. Or perhaps they were surprised we didn’t appear more self-centered. Aging sometimes does narrow one’s tolerances to change and discomfort.
Fitting in requires some skills and a lot of discipline. Putting up with people’s idiosyncrasies, and deciding not to weigh in with countering opinions, is a practice that has yielded us rewards beyond our imagination. Among the foremost is connection.
Of course, anyone who agrees to open their personal space to visitors for days on end deserves a lot of appreciation and respect. But remember the old adage, “How are fish and family alike? After three days together, they both start to stink.” That’s based on the idea that good manners tend to moderate after a few days and then the honeymoon is over.
How is this like treatment of sex offenders? How do treatment providers and clients come to a place where there is growing trust, respect and generosity? Here are a few thoughts about how connection is established:
Openness to change and difference
Being skilled and committed to listening with presence (not an agenda)
Curiosity, even in the differences that exist
Honesty, to say with compassion things that are true for you (even if it isn’t prudent to say it to your hosts, unless they are also curious)
Having a capacity to find and dwell periodically in ‘bigger picture” country.
Nourishing the quality in us that allows us to see others for their beauty, even in the same moment as we accommodate shortcomings.