Learning to Say “Ouch”

September 22, 2009

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I am a serious Dallas Cowboys fan.  From Don Meredith to Craig Morton to Roger Staubach to Troy Aikman to (then a whole bunch of dark years I’ve tried to forget) to Tony Romo, I have been a fan.  From Tom Landry to the evil empire, I have stuck by this team.  I realize I may have just lost half my readership with this confession.  If you will check back with me from time to time, I will work hard to earn your trust again.

Interesting Troy Aikman story…I don’t really know it is true for sure (I wouldn’t even know where to start researching it), but it is a story I have heard from a number of different sources.  When he first reported to training camp as a rookie, Aikman threw the ball really, really hard…often too hard.  His receivers in training camp had to have the trainers tape their fingers together, because his passes were causing their skin to split in between their fingers.  Of course, over time he learned that he didn’t always have to throw the ball quite so hard, that, in fact, it was sometimes a good thing to throw it with some “touch”.  After all, completing the pass was the objective, right?  O.K.  Is this the truth or just a football legend?  It doesn’t matter, because it’s a wonderful illustration for those of us who want to learn how to express pain in a way that will grow a relationship.

Every reconciliation (i.e., every genuinely healed relationship) begins with an appropriate expression of pain…one person saying to another person, “Ouch, this hurt.”  The church today is littered with broken relationships because of our own unwillingness (or ineptness) to go to the person who hurt us and give them the opportunity to apologize, to speak some healing into our lives.  It stands to reason then that it is often our inability to express pain in an appropriate manner which causes broken relationships to stay broken way longer than they should.  When your feelings have been hurt, you really must learn (and practice and get good at) the skill of appropriately expressing pain…saying, “Ouch”.  You must learn to go to the person who hurt you and tell them what you are feeling.  If you do not learn this skill, your life will be filled with broken relationships and bitterness.

Here are some practical thoughts about how to do this in a redemptive way:

1. Stay focused on your objective. Your objective is to place your pain out on the table and have the person who caused it be willing to pick it up and deal with it.  That person, after all, is the only person on earth who can bring any healing to your relationship.  Your objective is NOT to hurt them back or to shove your pain down their throat, trying to force them to deal with it.  Like my football hero, Troy Aikman, you must learn to deliver the [ball] in a way that is actually intended to be received by the other person.  It is a skill which must be learned and developed.  It takes practice.

2.  Be specific in describing your moment of pain. It is a good thing to draw the person’s attention to a specific moment as opposed to starting your statement with words like, “You always…” or “You never…”.  When drawing their attention to the moment of pain, use a very fine brush, not a broad brush.  Use statements like, “When [this specific event] happened, I felt…”.

3.  Once you have clarified when the moment happened, focus completely on you and your pain and not them and their conduct. If your objective is to deal with your pain, then stay focused on your pain.  They can give all the apologies in the world for their conduct, but if they never embrace or acknowledge your pain and never express regret for it, you will still feel unresolved.  You must keep the conversation focused on you and your feelings, at least at this point in the process.

4.  Do not judge them for their conduct. If you are staying focused on you and your pain, and not them and their conduct, this will be no problem.  But if you begin accusing them of bad behavior and passing judgment on their behavior, you will lose them.  You will not complete the pass.  Leave the conclusions about their conduct up to them to draw (with God’s help), at least for now.  As long as you are in pain, you are not their best teacher with regard to their conduct.  Remember, your objective (for now) is not to fix THEM, it is to fix your pain, and your relationship with them.

So, what do you suppose would happen in your life if you became skilled at learning to express your pain in a way that others are actually willing to pick it up and deal with it?  What happens if you get pretty good at “completing these passes”?  You get to go to Hawaii and play year after year in the pro-bowl of relationships, and eventually, you make it to the relationship Hall of Fame.

Or maybe you merely end up making a difference in someone’s eternity.  That would be o.k. too.

© Blake Coffee

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3 thoughts on “Learning to Say “Ouch”

  1. Pingback: Learning to say, “I’m sorry” « Church Whisperer

  2. Pingback: Learning to Say, “I’m Sorry” | 5Principles.net

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