THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
By Terri White
I grew up in a refined home where no one ever spoke about the elephant in the room. On the other hand, my friend Flo grew up in an abusive home - one in which Mom and the kids often had to escape their dad’s drunken rampage in the middle of the night. Nothing fazes her. Bring on the elephant. He’ll be toast in moments.
Why do we hesitate to address the elephant? Because vulnerability is scary. It’s like living in a glasshouse. What if we offend those involved, jeopardizing the relationship? They might not like us anymore. They’ll find out that we’re not so nice after all. We could cause a huge, stinky mess. However, the mess already exists – just not openly acknowledged.
Frankly, some people are best kept at arm’s length for valid reasons. For others, though, if a relationship is not worth honesty, then the relationship is worthless. My life-long motto is “feel the fear and do it anyway.” It’s never easy, but the rewards of an open relationship far outweigh our fears.
The unacknowledged elephant sucks the life out of relationships. You end up tiptoeing around each other. Dealing in superficialities. Thus, those relationships never flourish until you decide to buck up and address the issue.
Vulnerable relationships replace the walking-on-eggshells relationships. With those, you might never disagree while the elephant remains in the room, but once you boot him out, you are free to openly express your concerns and differences. Even though you may argue from time to time, there’s a freedom that infuses life into the relationship – like a 100-pound weight lifted off our shoulders.
One of my sons and I enjoy a fairly open relationship. However, an elephant remained that I continued to dodge. I avoided rocking the boat. Shocking, right?! You probably think I always kick down the door like a superhero. Wrong. I’m a coward at heart. I must force myself to “feel the fear and do it anyway”.
Here’s the deal: Over the years, I have changed my priorities and perspectives considerably. Looking back, I would have parented my kids somewhat differently. However, my son kept treating me as if I was that person from 30 years ago. Finally, one day I had had enough of his reactions to me. I shined the light on the elephant, clearing the air. Totally worth it! It infused an ease into our relationship, giving me the freedom to be totally up front with him from now on.
I still have a ways to go with other relationships, but baby steps prove fruitful and encouraging. Have you faced the elephant in a relationship? Chanced vulnerability? Fear paralyzes, but real living involves risks – not safety. Not jumping-off-a-cliff-risks but rather heart-to-heart risks. These make life a rich tapestry of deep relationships. As the new year unfolds, I’m challenging myself to enjoy more meaningful experiences. Who’s with me?