The only thing worse than not getting your own way is actually getting it! Being both successful and miserable is one of life’s worst curses. You may remember the famous song “I Did It My Way”. There is something inside all of us that wants to do things our own way, that doesn’t like to be controlled by others. But getting my own way too often usually means winning the battle but losing the war, winning the argument but losing the intimacy, winning the contract but losing the friendship. It is legendary how many good business friendships have been sacrificed on the altar of corporate success.
All of us need close friendships, but too often our task orientation leaves us feeling detached. All of us, if married, need intimacy and vulnerability in our marriages, but our desire to “have our own space” can leave us feeling very empty and alone. All of us, if parents, want joyful, open relationships with our children, but our fear to “loosen the reins a bit” when appropriate can often drive them far away. All of us want closeness and caring in our relationships, but our need to do it our way so often leaves us in the H.A.L.T. position (H.A.L.T. – hungry, angry, lonely or tired). At such times, we are particularly vulnerable to discouragement, to wondering what it’s all about. We may be saying to ourselves, “why beat myself to be successful and accomplish all these objectives if there is no one to share it with at a really intimate, caring level?” At such a point we realize in the words of the old 1960’s song that “Freedom Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left to Lose.”
Conference speaker Patrick Tomter said a while ago that our fundamental enemy is fear (fear of losing control). This is why we tend to say “My will be done” instead of the alternative “Thy will be done”.
Tomter believes that our mission in such situations is to identify the enemy (fear) and learn to embrace it, so that it becomes a tool for our growth. Embracing fear means to stop running from our fears and start accepting fear as part of ourselves. True friendships emerge when we finally accept the other just as they are, without preconditions or stipulations. To surrender our need for our own way is to finally stop, see and hear the other person for who they really are. There is no greater gift than to be truly listened to by someone who truly accepts and cares for you. That is why people have always been so attracted to Jesus, even if they couldn’t stand the church. They have sensed that here is a friend who truly understands, truly listens, and truly cares. Friendship is about giving our heart away to another. Friendship is about the willingness to not have our own way. Friendship is about being vulnerable enough to even let the one we love, hurt us without striking back.
That is what the world’s most famous individual did as he hung on an executioner’s cross in unspeakable agony and simultaneously said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” If you feel led to pray the Lord’s prayer this week, remember that to pray “Thy will be done” is both the death of the need to get your own way and the birth of a new level of friendship. Friendship in life is our deepest need: Friendship with others, and with Jesus the Source of life.
My prayer is that those reading this article may experience a new depth and reality to their friendships in the days ahead.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
-award-winning author of Battle for the Soul of Canada
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