It takes courage to listen to someone as they share their joy, fear, anger and pain. To be soft and receptive as you listen. To be aware of your own defences – your impulses and urges to attack or withdraw, to suppress yourself or suppress the other - and just stay present, and receive 'what is'. To hear another’s truth, without trying to fix them or advise them, without trying to change their experience in any way. To hear their joy and their pain, their disappointment and their anger too. To hear the effect something you said or did had on them, even if that triggers a big discomfort in you, even if it makes you feel ashamed, or guilty, or afraid. To be aware of your triggers, to honour them, to breathe into them, to let them into the light, to bless them with awareness, but to keep listening. To make it safe for your friend or partner to be vulnerable, to step into their own courage, to tell their truth, the truth that hurts, the truth that frees, the truth that heals. To give them as much space as they need to share. To hold them as they break, as they burn, as they confess, as they tremble with fear or joy. To give them that gift. The gift of relational safety. The gift of active listening.
And it takes courage to speak up, too! To be clear and assertive and direct, yet remain open and delicate. To listen as you speak. To say “no” when you mean no, and “yes” when you mean yes. To tell your raw truth. To let your friend, family member or partner know what is okay for you and what is not, what hurts and what brings joy, what angers you and what makes you feel loved. To let them know if they’ve crossed an invisible line with you, violated a boundary of yours. Maybe they just didn’t know. We are not each other’s mind-readers. To speak your raw honest vulnerability, without blaming them or shaming them, without name-calling, without attack, but without protecting them from your vision either. It is a fine line for sure, and it requires presence, and slowness, and great humility, and a willingness to drop the need to be ‘right’.
It takes courage to break a life-long addiction to people-pleasing, to putting the feelings and needs of others before your own, to “protecting” the other from your truth, to silencing or shaming yourself in order to avoid conflict or rejection.
It takes courage to a break a life-long addiction to narcissistic self-absorption, to putting your own feelings and needs before someone else’s, to silencing or trying to change someone in order to avoid your own pain, rejection and fear of abandonment.
It takes courage to be fully present with another and fully present with yourself.
This is the highest possibility of relationship: To weave together a co-created nest of presence, where we both feel safe to share our authentic selves. Where we break codependent bonds, stop trying to control or save or each other, or protect each other from the pain and loss and ecstasy of living, and speak our messy truths, taking fierce ownership of our own pain and joy, our own thoughts and feelings, our own urges and desires, our own values and passions.
In a nest like this, true love can surely blossom.
- Jeff Foster