Today’s message is inspired by the “We Can Do Hard Things” podcast episode with Dr. Galit Atlas—Family Estrangement: Should you Repair or Run?
Galit Atlas is an internationally known psychoanalyst. Her work on emotional inheritance explores ways our ancestors’ experiences shape our lives.
This episode was more hopeful than you might expect reading the title and seeing how our relationships are ending left and right all around us. Dr. Atlas addresses this problem.
It is not good for our mental health to end a relationship with a parent unless it is absolutely necessary. There is no place for abuse or having to remain in a relationship with someone who refuses to do any healing work. They, the pod squad, hold space for this reality. It is not how the world should be. We all long for a good parent. In my mind, I am thinking bigger than just our individual parents; I am thinking also about the younger generation in our culture right now that have been robbed of their village elders. Fox News has a lot to do with that, but also religion that prevents people from growing up. I still cling to hope and will do the work to help heal and repair this travesty. As long as there is breath, there is hope.
With that said, here are some things she said that encourages keeping the relationship, not running from it:
1) Our mental health does not thrive in relationships ending. If they can be saved, it would be beneficial to our mental health to save them. But we need to know how to do the repair work, or how to communicate what hurts, so this can happen.
2) This point is extremely important on so many levels, and I will apply it to another issue on my mind in another post:
———-When we are in relationship, we are only going to get things right about 30% of the time; 70% of the time will be spent repairing! But that is good news, because the repair work is where connection happens. This means being 100% in alignment is not good for our mental health either! Get familiar with the 30/70 rule.
3) We cannot repair when our sense of ”goodness” cannot be challenged. This is especially hard for a certain generation—our parents. This challenges their identity and what they were taught. They are right, mostly, when they say they did not have the tools to become conscious of emotional intelligence. That is true, but when they keep that as an excuse to not do the work now, a blockage happens and that is where we separate. Listen to what the Dr. Atlas says here:
——Intention is not what is most important in reparation. We have to tolerate our own sense of badness: “I hurt you. Tell me more about why I did.” Open dialogue with the ability to receive and face our own ”badness” is essential to the work of repair.
The biggest thing I think needs to be stated is we are all going to get it wrong, a lot. That does not make us bad people or abusers. Yes, we will at times cause harm and we will need to face it and repair it, but when we do that actually creates a deeper connection with the person. Even more than if we never made a mistake at all—the only way that will happen is if we stay completely out of a relationship.
Okay, I know this post is long, and I am grateful for those who are still reading. One thing I had to work hard on during my internship is how to apply this kind of realization theologically. How does my faith also tell this same story? So I am going to do that now with Jesus as the one doing the repair work! You heard me correctly.
Take a look at Matthew 15, or Mark 7, but I am focusing on Matthew 15. I am not sure if you are aware the gospels do not all share the same stories, and the ones they do are not told exactly the same way. This means accuracy is not what scripture is aiming for; it is aiming for the deeper truth the audience receiving the message at the time needs. Something to think about. Scripture is way deeper and more complex than we have made it culturally.
Matthew 15–The Canaanite Woman’s Faith (Pay attention to this title. This title is a good one, actually).
Jesus is leaving a place he had just been to go to the district of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite (this is important) woman comes to him wanting help because her daughter is being tormented by a demon. The fact she is Canaanite is what causes Jesus to not answer her initially. At this time Jesus’ message is for the Jewish people only, but this is a moment in Matthew’s gospel where this is going to change. His message is going to expand, not become more narrow.
The disciples want him to send her away because she is so annoying and keeps shouting at them. (Annoying is inserted by me, but come on read between the lines here). Jesus does not send her away, but he is not exactly kind either. He tells her he came only for the ”lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 24) But she continues asking for his help anyway, and Jesus says this: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs (v. 26). Her response: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” (v. 27).
You know what Jesus does in this moment? ——It is not: become defensive, blame the way he was raised or what he had been taught, ignore her, etc.
JESUS LISTENS AND HEARS HER! Jesus receives what she has to say and responds making it about her, NOT HIM!
“Woman, great is your faith!” (28) And her daughter was healed.
Jesus learned and recognized he did not treat an outsider well. He was kind of an ass, actually. A lot of Christians struggle with this interpretation, because for whatever reason we need Jesus to be perfect. I do not. I relate more knowing he had things to learn to and sometimes made mistakes that were probably hurtful. God relates to us, even in our mistakes. That is powerful to me.
What Jesus shows me here is that you do not need to beat yourself up for what you did not know. Or, maybe you did know on some level but were not conscious of how you are influenced by it too. It came out in your language and you would not have recognized it until an outsider revealed it to you. I like being able to identify with God even in my “badness”. Being able to identify this opens me up to receiving the gift of being able to course correct and experience healing for myself and others.
We follow a God who empowers the people. Anyone who comes seeking and believing—and God is willing to rethink. That is amazing to me.
This picture by the Naked Pastor came to mind for me when reading this passage.