Walking on Eggshells
Is it not true that quite a few of us are walking on eggshells either at home or at our workplace? It is possible that eggshells are strewn either at home by spouse, parents, siblings, in-laws, members of a joined family or at work by colleagues, supervisor, and the boss. How pathetic our life would be if major part of our precious life is spent in trying to avoid stamping on eggshells and picking up cracked shells.
Life is a celebration of love and if we have only one life to live ,should it be lived with a constant worry that every word uttered, responses and reactions made, interpretations attempted, praise and blame shared, criticisms and corrections pointed out? Life is not worth living in constant tension worried when the cart will turn upside down? Is there no way out? Counselling may be of great help. But, that is not my expertise, and so in all humility, I want to throw in my two cents from a spiritual perspective and pray that it is of some help.
The worst scenario is to end a relationship and to move on with one’s life (at times certain relationships may warrant that and an annulment depending on the case). But for some whom divorce is not an option and who in all their sincerity have committed to a relationship until death parts them, choosing the path of love and letting love define them and their relationships, is what guides them in dealing with eggshells too. Choosing the path of love is not being irrationally romantic but it is Scriptural and it is the path of Jesus himself. Being his disciples do we have a choice other than the path of love?
St. Paul in his famous hymn on love says:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing… So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1Cor 13: 4-8, 13).
Probably, as Christians, we are used to listening to this hymn so often that we don’t seriously reflect on it and let it guide our life by the truth of love. One, who chooses to live by the law of love fully comprehends that in spite of all the challenges to be surmounted, a relationship calls for patience, kindness, egos not getting inflated, not being rude to one another, not seeking their own interests, not quick tempered, and brood over injuries but strongly believing that love will always conquer.
Love sincerely seeks to understand where your spouse is emotionally coming from and the reason for exhibiting such a behavior. It is literally walking in the shoes of the other. It is indeed a compassionate understanding of what your spouse is going through. You reach out from the center of love when your spouse is ready to explode, highly sensitive to criticisms, and suffers from certain disorders (OCD).
Love is willingness to accept the sociological truth that the family has a strong influence on the initial years of a child’s life. What we are constantly exposed to growing up has a strong influence on our personality. You should be ready to give this leverage to your spouse.
Though living under the same roof still you may not be aware of the stress level your spouse is going through: work, finance, timeline for projects, toxic environment at work, food habits, children, coping with in-laws, spiritual darkness, sitting on a late night work related call, lack of sufficient hours of sleep, health issues, maintaining social life in the community… There is every chance that all these different sources of stress can make person go on the edge.
It is possible that your spouse is going through hormone and biological changes that is causing imbalances in the body and thus the volatile reactions. Once you accept this, won’t you be more understanding and compassionate to your spouse and out of this compassion try not to deescalate the volatile situation? It is your understanding, kindness, patience, willingness to walk the journey that will help the other. Love and goodness eventually pays off.
Make the words of St. Francis of Sales as your own: You will draw more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel of vinegar.
Often ‘Vocation’ is identified with priests and religious. But even marriage is a vocation and it is your particular vocation to be there for the other; till the end.
Let the words of Gandhi become your life: Become the change you wish to see in the other.
From the perspective of the person who is throwing eggshells:
Though our upbringing, family influences, and the environmental factors have contributed in our personality development still as an adult I have the power to change myself to be the best person version of myself. I got to remind myself that my spouse at any time could have walked out of this relationship. But she/he is choosing to live with me and continues to walk by my side. This attitude will definitely give rise to gratitude and admiration for your spouse. Hence, decide to change first for God (you are God’s image), for yourself (your true nature), and for the sake of your spouse (journeying in love).
The apostles who were of different personalities were able to accept and love each other because of their love for Jesus. Like Theresa of Little Flower make love for God the raison d’etre of your life and share that love with your spouse. God becomes the uniting factor.
Walking a spiritual path will bring us closer to God; an experience that will transform us more to be compassionate and kind in our thoughts, words, and acts. This is very true in Contemplative Prayer (Meditation) where we die to ourselves to let the nature of Christ shine through. With practice, mindfulness kicks in and we learn to respond rather than react.
Meditate on these words from the Scripture:
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ (Eph 4:32-33).
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Cor 13:11).
Kindly words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste, wholesome to the body (Proverbs 16:24).
A mild answer turns back wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).
Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do (1 Thes 5:1).
When you respond remember Buddha’s teachings on the use of words: It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.
And the command of Jesus: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (Mk 12: 30-31).
Your neighbor is someone other than your ‘self’ and your nearest neighbor is your spouse.