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Seek first to understand

Here’s a follow-up post to The World’s Shortest Play.

My hope is that some of the pain in Adoption World could be healed if people with a nemesis could really imagine walking in the shoes of their nemesis.

I’m on boards that are exclusively for adoptive parents, and it’s disappointing how little compassion and respect there is for firstparents (on occasion). I’m aware that there are boards for birth parents who (occasionally) express disdain and disrespect for adoptive parents. And adult adoptees also have their private places to vent about parents of all sorts.

These entrenched perspectives just dig people in further to their misery. And some people dig that, thrive on that, get their raison d’être from that.

But for others who want to move through, the only lasting way, I believe, is to see the Other as a reflection of Self.

Our adoption situations were pretty clash-free (but check with me in a few years as the third part of my plane grows more expressive).

Yet I have experienced such “reflections of self” in other areas. When I am triggered by someone/something, I must have that trait within me to be triggered. Here are some non-adoption examples:

  • I quit a job in a politically-charged environment because I worked for a woman who constantly made me choose between loyalty to her and truth/integrity. She reflected myself back to me as a person who sometimes operates from fear, and will manipulate and connive because she thinks that’s the only way to get what she wants/needs.
  • I got mad at my massage therapist for not honoring a two-fer package I bought from her. I should also thank her for showing me a part of myself that fears for lack of money.
  • On the positive side, I see in my mom immense empathy and compassion. I must have at least a small dose of that in me to acknowledge it in her.
  • I see in Tessa an independent spirit who knows herself well and doesn’t budge much. The independent in me recognizes the independent in her..

St Francis of Assisi (and Stephen Covey) said, “may I seek to understand, rather than to be understood.” It seems to me that the people who hurt the most focus more on the latter. My biggest breakthroughs have occurred when I really WORK the former.

Do you have an example of seeing from the viewpoint of a one-time nemesis? Or of someone you admire?

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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