The hurt comes from not feeling valued. And when I don't feel valued I can lash out verbally in a way that is essentially saying, "If I do not feel valued then let me tell you that she has no value either."
I recall talking with another friend years ago about judgment. We were being told that we should not judge, yet, I knew that judgment is required in daily living. I need to judge what time to wake in order to accomplish my morning tasks before a certain 9:00 a.m. appointment. Judgment in this sense is simply thinking through the steps required to achieve a specific goal. I also need to be skilled in judging the contours of my relationships with others, so that I am engaged in appropriate and life-giving ways with other people.
But the judgment that excludes the other, that needs to perceive another as morally flawed, void of intrinsic value, is what I do best to avoid. This week, when I spoke of my challenging friend in such a demeaning way, the air suddenly became crisp, tight, bad. My two friends at the table with me also felt the tension rising and bravely stated that they could no longer agree or even entertain where I was going in this conversation. So, I listened to them, to try to understand what was going on inside of me.
I wanted to learn to make peace within myself. I have learned to trust a larger domain than my ego. In "Theological Methods," a chapter within Christian Theology: An Introduction to Its Traditions and Tasks, David Tracy references Hans-Georg Gadamer's model of the "game of conversation." "For what is authentic conversation other than the ability to become caught up in the to-and-fro movement of the logic of question and response? Just as the subjects in any game release themselves from self-consciousness in order to play, so too in every authentic conversation the subject is released by the to-and-fro movement of the question and response of the subject matter under discussion."
He goes on to say that if we cannot give ourselves to this kind of play/work, we cannot interpret. And that would be true in my case the other day at my kitchen table with my friends. If I had not trusted them and something much larger than my wounded ego, I would not have interpreted anything at all about my situation. Nothing would have become clearer. But I gave myself to the the game and my friends helped me to interpret my relationship well.
This new friend of mine has done nothing morally wrong, nor have I. We are both trying and are both well supported in our community. As we relax in the care of our whole experience, it seems to me that we are finding ourselves more comfortable with one another in each encounter. We are slowing down, knowing that our relationship will do best with both care and distance.
How do you describe your challenging relationships? Who calls you into the game beyond your self-consciousness and ego?