One of the things I am learning in this phase of my life is that leading with our weaknesses, with our vulnerabilities out front, makes for stronger leaders. So, today I will lead the conversation with one of mine. I tug at knots. Confused? Think about what happens when you tug at a knot.
You know what I am talking about. That favorite necklace you only wear on occasion? You pull it out of your jewelry box only to find that while it has been sitting there for weeks, untouched, somehow it got a knot in it. If it is a necklace you love with a fragile chain, you know right away, instinctually, that the last thing you should do next is tug on it really hard. Tugging on it will only do one of two things. Either that fragile chain will split apart and be no more, or you will only force the knot to lock up even more. The logical option is that you will sit and try to untangle this mess, with no real clue how it got that way in the first place. You will have to now sit there with this thing that is precious to you and do your best to undo the damage that has been done. If you rush it, you will make an even bigger knot or at least one of a different shape, leaving you frustrated and your necklace unusable. Knots in necklaces must be handled tenderly, untangled slowly, with patience and persistence. You must be gentle or you may damage the fragile chain holding it all together.
Guess what revelation my morning coffee brought me today? Humans are knots. And I am a knot puller.
I have never been patient with a tangled necklace. I either rush it, getting in a hurry, making a bigger mess than was already there or, even better, I give up in an impatient huff and leave the necklace behind, going my own way with a less challenging necklace. Hmm. There is an ouch coming.
We are all just big knots. We start out as children completely untangled, and as we grow and learn and the world begins to take its toll on our fragile little hearts, we start to knot up, often with no real idea how we got like that. We tend to stay that way. We either get more knotted up when trouble comes along, reinforcing the tangled mess, or we stand frozen, waiting for someone or something to help us figure out how to undo that knotted heap we are hiding behind. Sometimes the person we trust to gently untangle it all can do more harm than good. Sometimes we get a knot puller.
Sometimes you get me.
I am the one that is going to stand up and call out the elephant in the room in the name of authenticity. I am the one that may say the harsh thing out loud because it is the truth. I am the one who will speak before I think. But the real truth is that I am not gentle with my people. I am also not gentle with myself. I have high expectations and higher frustrations. I am not patiently trying to sort out this tangled mess but instead pulling on the knots, forcing resolution, making them lock up even more or start to split apart from the pressure. This will never get me or the ones I love where we want to be. Untangled. Free. Safe in the hands of someone who cherishes us and loves us gently. With gentle truth. With gentle waiting. With gentle effort.
Ouch. I have some work to do.
I need to see more clearly what it is that I and those I love really need. Someone who will work diligently and with great dedication with the goal of seeing what I look like, what they look like, unknotted. That takes time. That takes patience. That requires a real demonstration of the kind of love we say we have for each other and ourselves. It requires our willingness to untie and deal with one piece at a time so we do not break something that is already so fragile. Our hearts.
For someone who likes to be a truth-teller, this is a tough truth to hear. It is also a reality check. It requires me to admit that the reason I am a knot puller is likely due to my own tangled mess that needs to be dealt with. It requires me to admit that admonishment with love untangles people more than screaming truth at them. I can't love people and be a knot puller too. Since we all have to start somewhere, I think I will start with mine. One chain at a time.