Bal­anc­ing ide­al­ism and re­al­ism

Lethbridge Herald - - FAITH PETS - Ja­cob M. Van Zyl

At home, the masks come off, and peo­ple can be them­selves. Play-act­ing and pre­tend­ing don’t work at home. Fam­ily mem­bers know each other’s real self too well, in­clud­ing the weak spots.

Fam­ily life tests our tol­er­ance for im­per­fec­tion. Be­cause I’m not per­fect, I can’t ex­pect my part­ner and chil­dren to be per­fect. I have to make al­lowance for weak­nesses and hope they will have the same at­ti­tude to­ward me.

How far should this tol­er­ance go? Should fam­ily mem­bers put up with abuse, sloth­ful­ness and lazi­ness?

Happy fam­i­lies main­tain a good bal­ance be­tween ide­al­ism and re­al­ism, do­ing their best and tol­er­at­ing im­per­fec­tion. As long as mem­bers put in the nec­es­sary ef­fort, their lack of per­fec­tion is tol­er­ated. But when wil­fully lax, mem­bers are called to or­der.

Tol­er­at­ing im­per­fec­tion at home while all are do­ing their best, is a sign of for­give­ness, con­sid­er­a­tion, and cour­tesy — at­ti­tudes that pro­mote good re­la­tion­ships.

When peo­ple trade this ap­proach for crit­i­cism and per­fec­tion­ism, they set a neg­a­tive cy­cle in mo­tion. What goes around comes around. Neg­a­tive re­marks and body lan­guage will re­turn to the per­son who started them.

Je­sus said that the mea­sure we use, will be used on us (Luke 6:38). He also pointed out that it is pre­sump­tu­ous try­ing to re­move a speck of dust from some­one’s eye while you have a plank in your own eye.

Blam­ing oth­ers usu­ally re­veals a guilty con­science.

Per­fec­tion­ism is a vi­cious cy­cle. It starts with dis­sat­is­fac­tion with your­self. To es­cape this un­pleas­ant feel­ing, peo­ple ei­ther project it on oth­ers (blam­ing them for their faults) or try to com­pen­sate by putting up high stan­dards for them­selves (show­ing they are not so bad af­ter all). Both ef­forts boomerang: their blam­ing sours re­la­tions, and their com­pen­sa­tion fails. They end up more mis­er­able than they were.

When fam­ily mem­bers trade ap­pre­ci­a­tion and sup­port for crit­i­cism and self­ish­ness, this cy­cle es­ca­lates. Words get sharper and may lead to phys­i­cal abuse. The fam­ily in­ter­ac­tion be­comes dys­func­tional and hard to change.

Even when fam­ily mem­bers re­al­ize their mis­takes, they are afraid to start the pos­i­tive cy­cle first. They fear they may be blamed and crit­i­cized for not do­ing their share per­fectly. Fam­ily mem­bers in coun­selling must learn again to tol­er­ate im­per­fec­tion while all do their best.

In­stead of zoom­ing in on fail­ures, they should main­tain a wide per­spec­tive and ac­knowl­edge suc­cesses and good ef­forts.

It is a great shock to a fam­ily when a sober al­co­holic re­lapses af­ter a few years of hap­pi­ness. They should not delete those good years but use them as foun­da­tion for an­other good pe­riod.

This tol­er­ance should not spur ad­dicts to oc­ca­sional re­lapses but show them the dif­fer­ence be­tween ad­dic­tion and hap­pi­ness. Re­lapses steal their joy.

Ja­cob Van Zyl of Leth­bridge is a re­tired coun­sel­lor and the au­thor of sev­eral faith-based books.

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