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See the Lamp, Not the Lampshade

As we near Valentine’s Day, I plan to focus more on relationships for the next few newsletters. Not only romantic relationships but all relationships. A Course In Miracles (R) states that relationships provide us with the greatest opportunity to grow and evolve because it is in our relationships that we are afforded the opportunity to see how we ‘show up’ (the mirror) in the world.

See the Lamp, Not the Lampshade

When there is a problem in a relationship, what gets the focus - the people or the problem? When your spouse loses his job due to downsizing, what gets the attention — the loss of the income or your spouse’s loss of peace and possibly even self-esteem? Where does your compassion lie? Do not give the problem more importance than you give the person. In other words, don’t confuse the behavior or the situation with WHO the person is.

There will be times when your spouse promises you a weekend away and doesn’t follow through. There will be times when your child tells you he/she will obey traffic rules and then gets a speeding ticket. There will be another time when your mother-in-law tells you how to discipline your children. It might happen that your wife spends the money you had agreed to put into savings. It’s also possible your child could experiment with drugs. It’s also not unheard of that business partners steal from the company. All of these are serious issues that must be dealt with. The most important tip I can provide you is this: Remember it is about what they have done or not done, not who they are. Speak to the behavior.

Our behaviors, actions, and achievements do make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us. However if you address the behavior and not the person you will feel much better about yourself and the person is much more likely to hear what you have to say. I once said to one of my children in a moment of extreme frustration, “You are a wonderful, but your behavior sucks!” Even though my language was a bit crass, once I defined the problem, then both of us were free to deal with the behavior while protecting the sanctity of our personal relationship and my son’s self esteem. I addressed the consequences of the behavior and the reasons behind the behavior. It was not about shaming or blaming my child or attempting to make him feel guilty. Guilt would only prolong the problem.

Dr. Gerald Jampolski of the Center for Attitudinal Healing puts it so aptly when he says, “Focus on the lamp, not on the lampshade.” So often in life we see the lampshade first (only?). We see the clothing, the appearance, the success, the lack of success and we judge on these superficial measurements. In the workplace, our jealously of the new person who is getting all the attention, actually keeps us from connecting with, enjoying and learning from this person. In a personal relationship, we might verbalize a turn of events as, “If I have know you were like this, I wouldn’t have married you!” or “If I had known you were like this, I wouldn’t have hired you!” These words are hard to take back. Would it not be better to think before you speak? Even when we are angry we can train our selves to wait rather than reacting. It is at this point we have the opportunity to make a choice. The choices are:

  1. “You’re not who I thought you were and you’re out of here!” or “You’re a no-good so and so and I will never trust you again.”

  2. Or you could: Take a few quiet moments to look at the situation and the person as being separate. Look past the behavior to what could possibly be causing the behavior.

  3. Get clear about what your expectations of this person are and this situation and then take responsibility for your expectations. Perhaps you hired or married your expectation rather than this person.

Hopefully you will then make a decision to speak to the lamp and address the lampshade.

A Course In Miracles (R) is a registered trademark of the Foundation for A Course in Miracles, Temecula, CA

Copyright Judy Irving, 2003. An expansion of Tip # 80 from: Living Courageously in a Changing World by Judy Irving.

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