They're Not Responding to You
Last week I had the profound pleasure of leading my Teaching (and Living) from the Inside-Out workshop to a group of educators. One of the key outcomes of that workshop is that participants get in touch with a deeper capacity to love, engage with, and creatively respond to the people and situations in their lives.
That topic is the subject of the blog post below, which is a re-post from October 14th, 2021. This one is worthy of on-going practice!
I still get angry sometimes as a dad. I’ll yell or get frustrated, and then come back around and have a conversation with my kids about it. What used to become a guilt-induced and blame-tinged apology has become an opportunity to love and grow. Here’s the magical phrase (or something like it) that’s begun to fall out of my mouth:
“Regardless of what you’ve done, my anger is not on you, it’s on me. Of all the ways I could’ve responded, I responded with anger. That says a lot about me and nothing about you.”
I’m so grateful to have learned this nugget of truth, because it’s one of the most important lessons I can teach my kids: They’re not responding to you.
Their anger or frustration - they’re not responding to you.
Their opinions and judgments - they’re not responding to you.
Their laughter and insults - they’re not responding to you.
Their gossip and drama - they’re not responding to you.
No matter what you do - they’re not responding to you.
They’re responding to their own stuff - their own thinking, their own illusions and delusions about you and themselves. They’re responding to their own fears, their own insecurities, and their own grappling with how to be in a world that feels so daunting at times. They’re responding to their own past and to their own fears about themselves and their future.
Can you imagine going through adolescence and young adulthood with less care and worry about what others thought of you? Can you imagine living free from needing to figure out what significance or meaning was behind how someone acted toward you or what someone said to you? Can you imagine living that way now?
Regardless of everything else: they're not responding to you. They're responding to their own interpretation of the way things are supposed to be. They're responding to their own desire to connect with others, and they sadly don’t know the better ways of doing it.
A colleague was telling me today about a student who came to her upset because of how the student perceived his peers judging him. She coached him to deflect their words and laughter, and when we really get that they’re not responding to us, there’s not even a need for deflection anymore.
When we get that they’re not responding to us, we get free. We get free to be. We get free to express ourselves honestly and passionately. We get free to enjoy ourselves. And perhaps most strangely, we get free to love even those whom we once thought were hurting us.
It’s sad for them that their thoughts distract them from the love and beauty of who you are. Imagine the internal suffering and at least delusion that must justify how they’re treating you. You’re worthy of so much more, and it’s sad that they can’t see it.
This perception - that they’re not responding to us - gives us access to response-ability. No matter the circumstances of how others occur in our lives, once we get that they’re not responding to us, we are no longer harmed and we are no longer trapped in needing to respond in specific ways. This is freedom.
We’ve had the keys to these shackles the whole time!
That they’re not responding to you, however, is only one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is just as profound and still not yet obvious:
You're not responding to them.
That's actually how I started this post off. When I'm angry or dismissive or mean to my kids, I'm not responding to them at all - I'm responding to my own perceptions, insecurities, fears, and expectations about how things are supposed to be.
Once we get that they’re not responding to us, we get free. When we then get that we're not responding to them, we stay free. And with this understanding we gain access to 100% response-ability, what I like to call radical responsibility.
Thanks so much for reading. ❤️