With Father’s Day coming up, I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot these past few days. I remember that he gave me a love for the outdoors and classical music, a deeply engrained hard-work ethic, and some infamous, not-always-healthy but stuck-in-my-head, life mottos like: “If you want it done right, do it yourself”. I also remember him saying often, especially near the end of his life, “It’s complicated”.
Back in the day, when he said “It’s complicated”, I would roll my eyes and oh-so-smartly think he was just making an excuse for not doing what I hoped he would do.
I’m afraid it has been too easy for me to judge others
before I have walked in their shoes.
I’ve noticed lately that I now say, “It’s complicated” all. the. time.
Life really is complicated.
And complex. And messy. And so much more nuanced and interwoven and painful and tangled than I ever imagined. If I didn’t know it before, the last few months of COVID-19 world implications and the newly ignited and overdue topic of racial inequality have made the complications run unstoppable through my head and my heart.
No matter what opinion or idea or suggestion or demand that surfaces, there is always a passionately presented contrary perspective. For some of those issues, whether it has to do with social isolation or correcting injustices, I have a clear conviction and satisfactory action steps in my mind.
On the other hand, there are so many topics, plans, and “We need to do this!” answers to our problems that feel not as simplistic as they appear in the heat of the moment. And I struggle with the complexity. One approach that will help some people would end up hurting others. One budget adjustment would benefit part of the community but compound problems in another area. People are created in the image of God, defined by much more than their mistakes, and somehow also accountable for harms that they inflict, even without the intent. It’s complicated.
I have recently experienced (again) that I still carry emotional baggage from my childhood that shows up uninvited into my present tense interactions with the people I love – and causes them pain. I have no desire to do that. I hope that I have grown past that, but it still happens.
I work hard to communicate clearly, lovingly, and with empathy and grace to others, but I continue to hurt people’s feelings and cause misunderstandings. Although I want to exemplify asking powerful questions and demonstrating sincere curiosity for others, I too often end up pushing for my agenda, speaking my opinion as if it were firm and factual, and talking over others before they can say what they think. I wish I didn’t do that, but I do.
And so I continue to admit my mistakes, my selfishness, my immaturities, and my gaps and ask for forgiveness and grace from others. I keep leaning into difficult conversations and asking questions – some good ones, some that show my ignorance – with a willing attempt to sort through the “It’s complicated” to find some real solutions to deep problems. And as I hope to receive grace from others for my obvious imperfections, I press on to offer that same grace and love to others, no matter their point of view or contrary idea or even their expressed anger and displeasure with me. My Dad was right.
Relationships, systems, history… they are complicated. And it’s worth it for us to care well for others and ourselves. To speak and act with kindness. To work together to fix things that are messed up. To bring hope to our shared future. To be Jesus’ light of love to others. Hatred, bullying, hurt-for-hurt is not the way. It’s not easy, but courageously pursuing truth and healing – with love – is our only option.
What are some things you do to handle this complicated life of ours?