My experience as a mother-in-law continues to reveal my character flaws. I’ve discovered that I like to have my own way—because I think I’m “right” and what I want is “fair.” I’m focused on my feelings, my needs, and my life. And if I’m honest, I must admit that when I am disappointed, I am tempted to blame other people.

IMG_4824Criticizing others is easier than dealing with my own emotions. “Fault-finding” doesn’t issue intellectual challenges or bring forth creative ideas. I avoid examining my own life because I keep my attention focused on what I perceive as another person’s weakness. My insecurities and my selfishness remain intact.

If “fault-finding” were a plant it would be kudzu. When conditions are right, kudzu climbs and spreads and wraps itself around everything in its path. Eventually individual trees vanish in the unrelenting coils of this vine. When I give voice to criticism or allow my disappointment to replay in my mind, my negative outlook eventually distorts everything that is beautiful and good.

After Luke and Camilla married, they entered a busy season of life. Juggling work and school, they didn’t have much time to spare. Thanksgiving rolled around and I was beyond thrilled that the two of them made time to travel to Albany to be with us.

We had a great few days together but I really expected them to hang around another day to see our extended family. I was disappointed but thankfully, in the moment, I realized I had a choice to make. I could focus on the day we did not share or treasure the days we had just enjoyed.

Relationships prosper or falter based on what we do when we feel frustrated, lonely, or slighted in some way. Long after a problem is resolved or a difficult time has passed, I can continue to experience the negative result of a simple misunderstanding or difference of opinion. If I am trapped in the coils of criticism, I will dredge up old hurts to justify my on-going negative attitude.

It requires careful thought and self-control, but there is another way to deal with disappointment.

In prayer, I can ask God to help me understand another’s point of view. I can allow the Holy Spirit to reveal my contribution to any problem. I can choose to forgive any real offense without expecting an apology. I can choose to remember all the ways I have been valued and loved by the people in my life.

I’m certainly not perfect, but my goal is to spend my time and energy enjoying and developing what is positive and lovely in all my relationships, including those with my sons and daughters-in-law. I will leave no room for “fault-finding” to grow.

 

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