Have you ever tried to unpick a tangled ball of yarn? (I realize I’m showing my age here as I don’t know anyone who knits anymore except my sister, and she’s older than me.) For those who never experienced “yarny” activities— sometimes, when you pull the bit of thread attached to the main skein, a “knot ball” pops out unexpectedly. At times, pulling apart the knot ball involves nothing more than tugging at either end of the snarl; other times, it requires far more patience than feels doable. So—if you’re like me— you throw the whole skein in a basket for another day (even though you risk creating more knot balls.) Hitting a knot ball when you’re cruising along on your project will slow you down; if it’s really bad, you may find yourself wanting to give up on the project altogether—even if that scarf would make the perfect Christmas gift. Don’t judge. I’m just being honest here.
Why do I mention the whole knot-ball thing, you ask? Well, for me, learning how to emotionally connect with other people (ahem, my husband) sometimes feels like I’m trying to unravel a particularly challenging knot ball. (I know—crazy after being married for 37 years, eh?) It would take a whole ‘nother post to explain the journey we have been on and why this season has sometimes made me want to throw the tangled ball back in the basket, but suffice it to say that the ignorance we lived in for years was not actually bliss. I knew that if we wanted to continue to grow closer together, something had to change. Unfortunately, change—as we all know— is often very hard to do. However, just because something is hard, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. When it comes to building emotional connection, hard is worth the effort.
In last week’s post, I discussed why this work is important. I wrote: “Understanding that it’s not your job to judge someone else’s feelings or be responsible for them puts you in a position to affirm or acknowledge what they are feeling so they can feel heard and valued.” This is a key to strong and meaningful relationships. Sadly, many of us graduate from childhood without having a clue about what emotional connection entails because our parents—more out of ignorance than intent to harm—did not attune to our emotions. Here’s the thing: because we are biologically driven to attach to others in order to survive, and attachment happens when someone is attuned and responsive to our feelings, doesn’t it make sense that we make it a priority to get really, really good at this? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding “YES.” This is why Jeff and I refuse to throw the knotted-up yarn in the basket and leave it there (as tempting as it is.) Sure, some days, the little challenges in doing this work feel like nothing more than untangling a gentle knot that needs a tug. On other days, the work feels so hard that I need a nap or a 5-mile walk to recover—and sometimes, it’s both 😩.
Let me leave you with another reason why I believe it’s critical that we get good at this work: We are called to love one another (John 13:34). Being a safe and consistent presence for someone to share what is going on inside of them (without judgment or defense) is truly an act of love. By NOT telling the other person their feelings are wrong or by NOT jumping in to offer a fix before they feel heard, you allow that other person to feel connected to you. And remember, connection to others is a critical human need. I wonder if this is what Jesus had in mind when He prayed that we would be one just as He and the Father are one (John 17:11). Could it be that as we learn to connect with others by attuning to their emotions, the differences between us (be it culturally, politically, racially or socioeconomically) become less able to divide us? Although I don’t know for sure, I’m willing to test my theory. How about you? 👇🏻
Tune in next week as I discuss what to do if you have trouble figuring out your own emotions.